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Realistic Human Graphics Look Creepy 650

WellHungMonkey writes "A really interesting read on Slate about how realistic human faces in games and on robots and so on, are not necessarily the way to go -- the brain isn't fooled, it attaches itself easier to Snoopy-like simplicity... Or Lara Croft attributes, but I'm not sure that's the brain talking."
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Realistic Human Graphics Look Creepy

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  • Curve (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mfh ( 56 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:47AM (#9387107) Homepage Journal
    While simplicity is good, as far as mental-recognition goes, taking simplicity to the max is a bad idea, especially when we have the technology to produce quality-driven graphics. You have to stay around the current level of production quality or you will lose audience. A good example of over-simplification for graphics is demonstrated by the terrible reviews [avault.com] given Radical's [radical.ca] unsightly (cell shaded) The Hulk PS2 game. [radical.ca] So there's subject matter to consider, as The Hulk was a kind of wacky cartoon/comic, but there was always a darker side to it for me. I was disappointed with the semi-recent Hulk movie, but does that mean the game had to suck too?

    For me, a balance of player control with appealing storyline is critical to any video game, and the lack of plausible graphics never helps. Perhaps this could be graphed on a curve or something, but I truly believe there is a balance between all elements of any game or CG film for that matter. Even in film there is still a kind of gameplay, in the physics used and the modes of operations designed to portray the story. Compelling writing fuels the arts, not parlor tricks, so this subject is not exactly cut and dry, by any means... it's very subjective and taste-driven. Another thing to consider is the date that media is designed, because we can all look back at early animation or even live-action special effects and think it looks fake, and the stuff created today will look fake tomorrow. Is there a ceiling to special effects?
    • I love simplicity... the www.roflcopter.com flash game proves that you dont need complexity to have a fun game.
      • Re:Curve (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jane_Dozey ( 759010 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:31AM (#9387705)
        No, you're right. Just look at tetris (people are STILL playing tetris and it's clones). I think the problems come in when a game is trying to look all realistic and slick but doesn't pull it off very well. Games that are consistant and arn't meant to look realistic by design can still be great games and don't suffer for their lack of shiny graphics.
        • Re:Curve (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Phisbut ( 761268 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @03:05PM (#9390737)
          The worst problems with games these days is that game designers rely on high-quality graphics to appeal to the player, and they practically don't innovate in terms of gameplay.

          The best of games have an interresting gameplay, not superb graphics. Just look at the whole series of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six... they got nice graphics and all, but when you played a shooter once, you played them all. Or even FarCry... how different is that from Doom or Quake or Half-Life with super high-res graphics (that require a video card more powerful than anything actually on the market...).

          Games like Tetris, Super Mario Bros. 3, Final Fantasy and The Sims are superbly good because they innovated in terms of gameplay, not because they have nice graphics.

          Designers are supposed to be artists, not administrators. Right now, they see a genre (say... FPS) and think "I'm gonna make an FPS game that looks so realistic (either graphics or physics or both) that it's gonna be very popular". That is in fact the administrator's point of view. The real Artist should rather think "What hasn't been done yet that would totally appeal to the players?"

          Until that day comes, we'll be stuck with games you'll buy for $50 and then get bored after a week.
          • Re:Curve (Score:4, Insightful)

            by The Evil Couch ( 621105 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:50PM (#9394440) Homepage
            when you played a shooter once, you played them all.

            well, that's not really fair. while it's true that games fall into patterns, it wasn't originally because of any foolish marketing scheme, it was because they were valid platforms to progress from.

            take id, for example. they progressed from a cartoony shooter (Wolf3D) to a dark atomosphere (Doom) to an arcade team-combat game (Quake 3 Team arena). they vary pretty widely and give a good deal to the genre.

            it's the same with any other genre, really. you have some games that innovate and are forever benchmarks. you have other games that are extentions of those. and you have those that are cheap imitations, hungry for the bucks.

    • Re:Curve (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:54AM (#9387210)
      > I was disappointed with the semi-recent Hulk movie, but does that mean the game
      > had to suck too?

      Yeah, they unfortunately planned that at a board meeting. A minority of the execs thought about making both good, then they tried to compromise on bad movie good game, then the CEO said "fuck it, they will both suck." And all the yes-men in the room agreed.
    • Style (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EvilTwinSkippy ( 112490 ) <yoda@etoyoDALIc.com minus painter> on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:26AM (#9387627) Homepage Journal
      In the theater there is a concept known as "suspension of disbelief." You and the audience more or less agree on some level that they are not, indeed sitting on their duffs in a dark room watching actors in pancake makeup walking around painted plywood sets. They are in fact in medieval England, participating in the court of King Richard.

      The most effective games for me were the ones that were not trying to be photorealistic. Early games developers really were on to something employing anime for graphical sequences and character charts.

      Robotech was one of the most realistic playstation 2 games I've played. Not because the planes and robots looked like actual real-world weapons. It was because they looked and acted like the weapons from the cartoon series I remembered as a kid.

      The animation sequences in Dungeon keeper 2 were absolutely believable. The same animation quality applied to Blizzard's Starcraft was not. Why? Dungeon keeper didn't try to look real, and employed a lot of tongue in cheek cartoony elements. Starcraft tried to be entirely too serious.

      And don't get me started on Squaresoft...

      • Re:Style (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @12:43PM (#9388653) Homepage Journal
        I think William Shakespeare said it best:

        O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
        The brightest heaven of invention,
        A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
        And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
        Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
        Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
        Leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
        Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,
        The flat unraised spirits that have dared
        On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
        So great an object: can this cockpit hold
        The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
        Within this wooden O the very casques
        That did affright the air at Agincourt?
        O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
        Attest in little place a million;
        And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
        On your imaginary forces work.
        Suppose within the girdle of these walls
        Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
        Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
        The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
        Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
        Into a thousand parts divide on man,
        And make imaginary puissance;
        Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
        Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth;
        For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
        Carry them here and there; jumping o'er times,
        Turning the accomplishment of many years
        Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,
        Admit me Chorus to this history;
        Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,
        Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.

        God I love that speech.
  • by miroth ( 611718 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:47AM (#9387110)
    ...as long as the blood spatters are lifelike when I blow their heads off.
    • by greechneb ( 574646 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:55AM (#9387227) Journal
      And how do you know what realistic splatters look like?.... nevermind, I don't want to know.
      • by Rob Carr ( 780861 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @12:15PM (#9388252) Homepage Journal
        And how do you know what realistic splatters look like?

        I don't know about the other guy, but I used to be a paramedic. This causes problems when I go to movies or watch TV. The blood and gore almost always looks fake and I start this bizarre giggling.

        Needless to say, I did not go to see "The Passion of the Christ."

        • Now you know what it's like for a computer Guru to sit through a spy movie.

          "I've crossed referenced [the subject's] credit card receipts and have pinpointed his location to..."

          That's a neat trick, credit card processors take days to settle payments, and queries generally require a court order, and are generally historical in nature.

          "We have a live satellite image of the location..."

          Really? On a satellite that is travelling at 17,000 mph. Normally we are lucky to get a blurry snapshot, at best, every 90 minutes. More likely a snapshot every few days, owing the the orbital mechanics of spy satellites. Geo-stationary satellites are too far away to get a decent close-up from.

          "I've cross referenced the FBI's database..."

          Until recently the FBI's database was a green-screen application that would take days to search properly. Assuming what you were looking for was in it. And your search didn't require more than one word at a time.

          • by Rob Carr ( 780861 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @01:44PM (#9389591) Homepage Journal
            Now you know what it's like for a computer Guru to sit through a spy movie.

            This should get it's own Slashdot article: do they ever get ANYTHING right in the movies? I may have to see if it's ever been done on Slashdot....

          • by zero_offset ( 200586 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @01:56PM (#9389797) Homepage
            I involuntarily groan every time somebody sits down at a keyboard and announces that they have to "hack the mainframe". Which inevitably takes 15 to 20 seconds.
          • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @02:51PM (#9390592)
            I can't sit through a movie with fighter jets without pissing everyone else off.

            "No, you fool...you cannot launch a missile while the aircraft is on the ground!" (well...you can, but it's hard and you can't do it solely from the cockpit) (something with Michael Douglas)

            "No, the runway is NEVER next to the main gate" (James Bond)

            "If you shot off all your missiles, how come you now have 3 more? (All of them)

            "um, no. A 'modified' F-117 is NOT big enough to hold a squad of people inside" (Air Force One)

            "No, you can't outrun a missile for that long. Either it would have run out of fuel, proximity detonated, or hit you by now." (Behind Enemy Lines)

            Hair and uniforms. (All of them)

            "If you're going to call them Air Force planes, at least use Air Force planes. F-18's don't count." (The Rock, ID4)

            and don't get me started on Iron Eagle:
            "No, you fool...you cannot plug your flight helmet into your Walkman!"
          • by JudgeFurious ( 455868 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @03:55PM (#9391333)
            Ditto for anyone who's been in the army trying to watch a war movie. Rarely if ever does anything look real or act appropriately. People stay bunched together because they all need to be in the shot when in reality they would be much farther apart for example.

            Soldiers in the movies generally don't behave much like their real world counterparts nor do their opponents.

            Anyone remember "Red Dawn" where the RPG's looked like they were moving in slow motion along a wire? Most war movies to a pathetic job of portraying what real munitions look like in use.

            Guys roaming around the jungles of Vietnam with modern versions of M-16 rifles in "Platoon". Once character named "Bunny" bit a beer can in half at one point and it was aluminum. I was too young for the Vietnam war and even I remember that before aluminum cans beer and soda came in steel cans with a stamped strip down the side (which I challenge anyone to casually bite through to impress their friends). Or the scene in "Full Metal Jacket" where Joker is walking through the barracks carrying a modern Mag-light.

            One movie where the inconsistancies didn't bother me too bad was the Jason Patrick movie "The Beast" about a Russian tank crew lost in Afghanistan. It was filmed in Israel using a bunch of real Soviet hardware which I can only assume the Israeli army has piles of just sitting around from thumping thier Arab friends. Tanks firing looked like tanks firing. WP rounds looked like WP rounds. Houses didn't burst into flames (they were stone and mud huts) but rather shuddered and collapsed.

            They rarely resorted to the cliche "Monster Fireball" effect and even the radio that the tank crewmen were listening to was labeled in Russian.

            It's hard to find a realistic movie if you're in the field being shown. I imagine lawyers get a good laugh out of lawyer movies, cops chuckle at police movies, and doctors find medical dramas hard to watch.

    • by mrwonton ( 456172 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:00AM (#9387285) Homepage
      This actually brings up a good point. Games like Postal 2 [gopostal.com] are full of brutal and bloody violence. In the article, Clive Thompson says the characters in games look like "animated corpse(s)." I for one would rather be brutally killing things that may try to be realistic, but are obviously not, than ones that actually come closer to fooling us into believing they're human.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:06AM (#9387380)
      This would not be so funny if you have actually ever been in combat and seen just this thing happen. I've seen my share of combat, but stuff like this is disturbing as Hell and sticks with you for the rest of your life. In computer games, you are looking at vectors, wire frames, Gourard shading etc...etc...etc..., but the real life that you are "simulating" in games is represented by brain tissue, blood and human lives.

      Semper Fi

      • Completely correct.

        However, the notion is like this:

        Man 1:
        You see these little squarish symbols on the map there?

        Man 2:

        Man 1:
        They represent units. There are the infantry regiments and battalions, the field artillery here , the armored units over here, the mech inf behind.

        Man 2:
        I see.

        Man 1:
        We move them around, and gain terrain by pushing the enemy back.

        Man 2:
        Brilliant! Let's do it.

        Now, that's abstracting the flesh and blood nature of the soldiers on the ground doing the moving around and the civilians getting caught in the middle.

        When true-to-life realistic games come across, and you see the bodyparts flying around, it's a lot harder for joe public to say it's okay to lose a regiment on a "bad day".

        So while psychologically it's harder to "see the white of their eyes", I think ultimatly it serves the soldiers all around the world that the public realize they are not just game pieces to be moved around.

        I think also that it is better if 500,000 19 year olds get the "kill them" out of their systems by shooting virtual soldiers that respawn in 10 seconds than enlisting to go "kick some ass" overseas.

        (to the great chagrin of recruiters everywhere)

        Perhaps it would be good to set up netcafes in "hotspots" with free fps gaming like counterstrike, so that the locals can get their kicks instead of making roadside bombs.

        I also noticed an interesting side effect. Any ill-conceived notion of invulnerability is shattered by playing those games, because you will be killed in the games, no matter how good you are. Everybody that plays those games know that the ones who rush the tunnels die first. And the lone sniper whose team has been wiped out can last a bit longer, but he gets killed too. Maybe not this round, but next.

        The realism makes people realize that being gung-ho about fighting with guns makes you dead.

        • My brother used to be Opfor at Fort Irwin. Yes, the real Opfor at the real Fort Irwin. They used to be the Soviets, today they are the Krasnovians.

          Regardless of how "realistic" the graphics look, combat simulators can't simulate:

          • Lack of sleep.
          • Equipment Failure. (M16's really don't like sand.)
          • Boredom. (For most of the battle, you are just sitting there.)
          • Running around in chem suits under a desert sun.
          • by mikael ( 484 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @01:10PM (#9389114)
            Regardless of how "realistic" the graphics look, combat simulators can't simulate:

            • Lack of sleep.
            • Equipment Failure. (M16's really don't like sand.)
            • Boredom. (For most of the battle, you are just sitting there.)
            • Running around in chem suits under a desert sun.

            Sounds like my undergraduate degree:
            • Lack of sleep - Staying up until 2am to complete a coursework, then getting up at 7am in order to arrive at 9am for a lecture.
            • Equipment Failure - Our computers used to be in South facing labs with poor heat insulation - The repetitve heating/cooling cycle would pop the ROM, memory chips and circuit boards out of their sockets.
            • Boredom - When required to attend talks be various speakers, you are just sitting there. The worst part being at the end of the talk, when it is lunchtime, you are hungry, and some smart-ass just has to have an in-depth discussion with the speaker, rather than talking privately at the coffee break.

            • Running around in chem suits under a desert sun. - Trying sitting inside a small computer lab with no air conditioning in the middle of Summer, 30 computers with 20" CRT monitors, two students to each machine, for a two hour tutorial. The sweat is forming faster, than you can wipe it off. Not forget having 10 minutes to travel between two buildings a mile apart, because someone forgot to allocate classes to rooms.
          • by Yuan-Lung ( 582630 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @01:48PM (#9389661)
            combat simulators can't simulate:
            • Lack of sleep.
            • Equipment Failure. (M16's really don't like sand.)
            • Boredom. (For most of the battle, you are just sitting there.)
            • Running around in chem suits under a desert sun.

            well, I donno about you, but I get those just fine.

            * Lack of Sleep
            Lack of sleep is a given for many players. I have had teamates drifting to sleep in battles every now and then.

            * Equipment Failure
            I really don't see why a game can't simulate this. Set a probablity of failure on the weapon as a function of terrain, and a state flag on the weapon. It's simulated.

            * Boredom
            Depending on the mission senario, you may be required to wait it out while your partners complete some task. However, since the point of the game is to keep people entertained, a well designed mission should have too much of this.

            * Running around in chem suit under a desert sun
            Over clocked AMD in a cramped AC-less room in a hot summer day.
          • by Ieshan ( 409693 ) <ieshan AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday June 10, 2004 @01:55PM (#9389767) Homepage Journal
            No kidding! I had a friend who was an airline industry worker, and every time we saw the "Aircraft Control Simulato" game in a videogame store, we always used to joke about how people sit at their desk and drag cigarettes like mad while tearing their hair out and getting no sleep.

            It's like, the most stressful job in the world. Why anyone would want to simulate that is faaaar beyond me.
        • by SeanDuggan ( 732224 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @01:03PM (#9388994) Homepage Journal

          In a game, you invariably respawn or reload from an earlier point. Sure, some people play "iron man" games where there is no saving, but that's rare, I suspect. Heck, most FPSes will currently save your game automatically before you run into a dangerous spot.

          I can personally attest to the odd mindset that can leave. I was working with some electronics at one point, shortly after a long gaming session. As I was reaching for some components, I realized I'd better first check to be sure everything was turned off and unplugged. THe thought right afterwards of, "Eh, I can always restore a save point" caused me sober up immediately and put off that work until I'd some sleep under my belt. *shrug* Or maybe I've just got a weak grasp of reality.

        • by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @01:03PM (#9388997)
          Somehow I read your post and believe the opposite. Games are ultimately designed for the player to win: be it by solving problem, developing spiderman twitch reflexes, etc. Winning or beating a level usually involves an ego massage along with it ("Excellent mighty warrior...") Second, no matter how realisitic a game ultimately looks, suspension of disbelief is voluntary subconcious submission to unreality, and only disturbed people actually think it's real. The rest of us know in our heart that our victory is hollow, but enjoy it for the challenge of it. Do you worry much about dying in a game? Not really, only if it sets you back somehow.

          What Semper Fi above was alluding to is that "real life" is quite the opposite. You may not win, your entire purpose in life may be to be blown up. You may be the smartest, fastest and well equipped and STILL eat it. When you kill someone, he stays dead forever. When his brains are splattered on the wall, you are faced with the harsh reality that IT COULD HAVE BEEN YOU, and may yet be. Further your survival may have less to do with native instict & training than by sheer dumb luck.

          The trouble is, until you're in one of these situations, I don't think anyone (myself included) really understands it. Games romanticize it, make it sexy etc. I doubt they are a deterrent to anything.

          On the other hand I don't really believe many people join based on notions of heroics. I suspect the #1 driver is paying for college or more simply steady work & a familiar institutional atmosphere. During war-time it may be a different story, but then the country may need foolish people in search of glory to fill the ranks, and they will become heroes even if they die unromantically.

  • by GillBates0 ( 664202 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:47AM (#9387118) Homepage Journal
    The once-cute robot now looks like an animated corpse. Our warm feelings, which had been rising the more vivid the robot became, abruptly plunge downward.

    Michel Ja...uh...Jefferson.

  • by untaken_name ( 660789 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:48AM (#9387135) Homepage
    If they were, they wouldn't be creepy. That whole sentence about how the brain knows the difference... doesn't that make them not-so-realistic? I mean, I understand that realism is what they're going for, but the tech isn't there yet. I think we all knew that already.
    • by surreal-maitland ( 711954 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:53AM (#9387206) Journal
      exactly. they even say that eyes and mouths don't move correctly when the characters speak. the article is very self-contradictory in the sense that it continues to claim that as graphics get more humanlike, they get more creepy, but the creepiness is due to the differences, not the similarities.

      but really, are very realistic paintings of people creepy? (and paintings as realistic as photographs *do* exist) no! why? because they're *realistic*.

      oh, and the author thinks his roomba is cute because it acts sort of like a *pet*. a very stupid and clean pet, but a pet, not a human.

      • by MyHair ( 589485 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:13AM (#9387455) Journal
        but the creepiness is due to the differences, not the similarities

        I haven't RTFA, and I took the quote out of context, but that's par for the course.

        Actually I think this similarities make the differences more noticable. It's like if you play two musical notes together, but one is a half-note out of tune it sounds incredibly awful...way more awful than if the notes were a quarter-octive apart and one was out of tune by a half note. Or if you're wearing a red shirt and red pants, but they aren't quite the same color red it's very distracting and annoying.

        I think as the overall effect looks more realistic the tiny differences sour the effect more than they normally would because instead of our imagination filling in the gaps our perceptions keep warning us something ain't right.

        But I'm probably just nitpicking semantics....
        • by *weasel ( 174362 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @12:07PM (#9388142)
          But I'm probably just nitpicking semantics....
          No, that's actually the whole point of the Uncanny Valley.

          To take the red pants, red shirt analogy:
          The point is: we're trying to get the pants ever closer to matching the shirt, but it's proving really difficult to do. As we get closer and closer to matching, we're finding out that human perception has a finer resolution than we previously though. And the closer the shirt and pants get to matching, the more distracting it becomes, and the more the detail and not the whole becomes the focus of our attention.

          The previous poster was trying to suggest that as technology improves, we will indeed be able to make the pants match the shirt perfectly, and there will be no divide.

          Many people tend to doubt that. Most feel we're working with two entirely different fabrics, and human perception is so good that exact matching just isn't possible. Therefore, they feel it's better to focus on complementary style.
      • by Hard_Code ( 49548 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:23AM (#9387591)
        No, the point is that when you start to make a robot look human, your brain thinks "ah, that's a cute robot!", but when you make a robot look ALOT like a human your brain starts thinking "damn, that's a fucked up human".

        "but really, are very realistic paintings of people creepy?"

        Never seen a movie with a picture with cut out eyes so people can "spy" on people in the room? Yes, that looks creepy.
      • by perlchild ( 582235 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:30AM (#9387686)
        The difference is that paintings are static, therefore inherently non-threatening. Animations also have to stay both coherent, and realistic. This might actually be a result of the overuse of the motion-capture technologies(having a suit track the motions of a human, then take those motions, and reproduce them on a cgi).

        Why is this important? well because with the technique, you track the motion of the bodymass of the actor, along with his skeletons, you don't track the motion of the texture of the human. Our minds are used to tracking the motions of even the blood inside a moving human body, to identify intent as well as capacity to threaten, so even seeing the sway of the body hairs of an opponent can contribute or detract from realism. That noone made a motion capture suit that can track that much detail(indeed most motion-capture suit obfuscate some of those, as they enclose the human in question, not even allowing sweat to escape) means that all motion-tracked(my word, you are free to trade me a better one) games will lack those telltales as muscles shifting, lipid flow, blood derivation or sweat traces, and those are all used by our instinctive mind as proof of "real human threat, approach with caution" or "woohoo matable member of the opposite sex, approach with caution if weapon is in view, otherwise, strut a bit" as opposed to "something fishy, alert alert alert". The last case has a bad effect in games because:

        it prevents suspension of disbelief by engaging suspicion reflex

        it leaves the primitive brain without a preprogrammed response, which makes the gamer somewhat uncomfortable (it's going improv without a script after all)

        our higher brain functions may be unaffected, but they are pretty far from our pleasure centers, so pleasing the higher brain functions exclusively doesn't work as well as exciting the higher brain functions and eliciting survival/reproduction/lower brain reflexes or pleasure

        As for the roomba, anyone notice how most cars also end up having super-deformed puppy faces on them? We thrive on the familiar, so using pet shapes, which are familiar and reassuring, works better than super-futuristic shapes, which is why the 60's fashion of "spaceclothes" never caught on since.

      • by _bug_ ( 112702 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @12:01PM (#9388071) Journal
        Paintings are a bad example.

        Life-like images are not exactly new. We're quite use to them because they do get so life-like.

        The problem is entirely in MOVEMENT of those life-like objects. Eyes twitch or blink the wrong way, certain areas skin on the face move too little or too much as the lips move. The gait, or posture of the walking figure just doesn't look right.

        We're so use to seeing humans that we never pick up on these subtle things that we instantly recognize as "human".

        When you're presenting an animated or toon-ish character, you're mind easily accepts it because you understand it's a parody of a real object.

        When presented with life-like objects, you're mind is trying to accept them, not as parody, but as the real thing. This touches completely different areas of the brain. An area use to seeing ONLY humans. Now something that doesn't act human is trying to be passed off to this area of the brain. It instantly says "no ufcking way" and thus.. we get all those creepy feelings because we've got no idea how to react. Up until this point, we hadn't been subjected to non-human objects trying to be passed off as human. That area of the brain has no clue how to react.

        * 'area of brain' is not meant as a physical area. i do not claim to be a brain-tologist. hah.
    • by haystor ( 102186 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:03AM (#9387336)
      That's kind of the point. As they become more realistically human, they require a higher standard for the brain to accept them. The fact is, humans aren't any harder to animate but the brain is much better at noticing the differences. Spaceships look good because the brain doesn't intrinsically recognize the proper shape for a spacehip.

      I'm sure that to pilots a lot of the plane animations in Pearl Harbor looked just wrong. If someone drew a dragon with the ears tapered back along the top of the head instead of out to the side would you immediately notice that as wrong? Now draw a human and move any feature around by half and inch and see what a difference it makes.
      • by Jackie_Chan_Fan ( 730745 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:58AM (#9388041)
        To some extent what you say is true. But as 3d character animator... I can with out a doubt say Humans are harder to animate :)

        And the reason is... Your point :) ANYTHING off, looks off. that includes skin sliding, muscle movement, skin tranlucency, skin texture, material, reflections, hair on the head and the body... Walk animations, any movement around the eyes where eye movement affects the skin and muscles around it so gently.

        There is just so much to do when animating a human. If we're talking about the absolutely perfect ideal animated human... then we're talking about levels of detail like no other... Because of the very reason you point out.

        So animating them is much harder... because people will notice the difference.

        Animation is hard no matter what. A slight change of anything can evoke a mood or attitude that you dont want.

        Animating humans IS HARD. In animation you judge the level of difficulty by what you can get away with... This is true. But animating a 3d snoopy, vs animating a 3d realistic human is so much harder because of the level of refinement, detail and what you can and cant get away with.

        Snoopy can spin his ears like a helicopter and no one will question it.

        When animating a human... If the ears dont move just right when they're required too... Does the character evoke a supid emotion? A state of dumbness? Shock? horror, cartoony? A human can go so wrong so easily when animating one.

        Chuck Jones is considered one of the worlds BEST animation directors/animators...

        He never animated a realistic 3d human... Could he have? Not without an army.

        Its not a question of skill... its a question of detail and the work load.
    • Shrek (Score:4, Interesting)

      by System.out.println() ( 755533 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:14AM (#9387473) Journal
      This story reminds me of an interview I read in, I think, Wired about the making of Shrek. They made the princess as realistic as possible, but it was looking like an animated corpse. They said something along the lines of "until we have the ability to cross the last 1% of realism, we need to step back a bit".

      Or something.
    • by Have Blue ( 616 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @12:02PM (#9388088) Homepage
      What seems to be going on is that as you progress from "does not look like a human" to "looks like a human" you have to pass through a "looks like a human corpse" region. The image of the face is perfect, but all sorts of subtle motions and colors are simply not present, a description which also fits the recently deceased to a T. We are naturally repelled by corpses, so the same reflex is triggered.
  • examples? (Score:5, Funny)

    by nycsubway ( 79012 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:48AM (#9387138) Homepage
    I'd like to see some examples of these pictures. Sure they are creepy, sometimes people can be fooled though. I had a picture of Aki in a bikini from the Final Fantasy movie on my computer. My girlfriend found it and wanted to know why I had it. She didn't beleive me that it wasn't a real person.

    • Re:examples? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fireduck ( 197000 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:03AM (#9387338)
      Interesting that you bring up Aki. I have a silk screened wall hanging of the same image that a friend picked up at E3 several years ago. My feeling about the Final Fantasy movie was that the characters were amazingly life like, *until* they started talking. The animators didn't have a good grasp on (and probably didn't have the technology to model) realistic facial movements They didn't convey a great deal of emotion. No light in their eyes, or any of the other subtle facial clues we look for when talking to someone. Beautiful when rendered static, but wrong and a bit creepy when in action.

      I wonder if WETA tried to re-model Gollum as a human how realistic it would be. The technology has clearly advanced to the point where they can pick up many of those subtle clues, but since it was still non-human, I wonder how much of that is our projection of emotion into it.
      • Parent Batting 0.500 (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2004 @12:33PM (#9388514)
        The animators didn't have a good grasp on (and probably didn't have the technology to model) realistic facial movements. They didn't convey a great deal of emotion.

        IAADA (I am a digital animator), and I'd like to point out that you're batting 0.500 in regards to this snippet. While it's true that the facial animation and a sizeable portion of the body language in the final product (no pun intended) both fell short of accurately conveying human-like emotional dynamics, declaring that the animators didn't know part of their craft (referring only to facial animation/body language), greatly oversimplifies the issue; what it mostly boils down to is Time.

        Firstly, the entire FF:TSW staff was comprised of some of the best in the business, bar none. Without getting too technical, the modeling techniques available to the modeling staff at the time of production could've indeed sufficed. In regards to complex organic surface modeling, I'm referring to NURBS ("Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines" - a type of curve) Patch Modeling: simply put, a technique involving only curves, where a modeler produces "patches" of any size one-by-one, and then "stitches" them together. Think of it roughly as tailoring a dress made only out of patches and with no visible seams, with as many patches as you'd like. The result: any desired surface, composed of any number of individual regions, each one able to infinitely deform itself while able to affect other nearby patches accordingly. However, patch modeling is painstakingly time-intensive, increasing nigh-exponentially when the amount of patches comprising a surface is increased. This in turn affects the animators' control, giving them near-infinite possibilities for motion, but also increasing the workload tremendously.

        IIRC, the characters in FF:TSW were in fact modeled using NURBS patches, but as I mentionned before, the number of patches used could've been two, five, or even tenfold, had the staff been given that much time to work on them. For example, compare the facial animation and body language in FF:TSW to the animation in The Animatrix's "Final Flight Of The Osiris", which was largely produced by the same team. If I may indulge, note the sly glance that the female lead throws to her male counterpart, when they find themselves on the Osiris' bridge just after their sword fight. That quarter-second of motion is nothing short of stunning, as was the rest! Why? Consider the running time of this short film compared to the full-length FF:TSW. Granted, the production schedule was shorter yet not proportional, while the modeling and animation technologies changed very little (granted, this is up for debate).

        So there you have it! If anything, the fact that the picture was already 2 years overdue when released leads me to place the blame for the "... [lack of] light in their eyes, or any of the other subtle facial clues we look for when talking to someone" largely on the producers trying to bite off more than they could chew. I'm certain that everyone on the team could pick up a share of the blame, but IMHO the entire endeavour was a laudable effort nonetheless, which greatly upped the bar in terms of achieving life-like digital animation. Cheers!
    • Re:examples? (Score:5, Informative)

      by finkployd ( 12902 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:04AM (#9387355) Homepage
      I had a picture of Aki in a bikini from the Final Fantasy movie on my computer. My girlfriend found it and wanted to know why I had it. She didn't beleive me that it wasn't a real person.

      In case (like me) you feel the need to find this picture, I think the one the parent poster is talking about is here [game-server.cc]

      • Re:examples? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:41AM (#9387845)
        Pretty nice! It looks like synthetic child porn is very close. Wasn't there some US law that was being considered about sexually explicit rendered pictures depicting children? Will there be laws that forbid you from drawing certain scenes? That would be weird, but we're living in weird times.
        • Re:examples? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by belloc ( 37430 ) <belloc@NOSPAm.latinmail.com> on Thursday June 10, 2004 @02:57PM (#9390652) Homepage
          Wasn't there some US law that was being considered about sexually explicit rendered pictures depicting children? Will there be laws that forbid you from drawing certain scenes? That would be weird, but we're living in weird times.

          I hope you're not implying that we're "living in weird times" because our society doesn't think it's a good idea to depict sex with children, because that's how it sounds in the context of your message. In terms of these sorts of things (unconventional sexual behaviour) we're living in the most permissive western society in dozens of generations.

          A hundred years ago, if you thought it might be fun to depict sex with children, people wouldn't have done anything quite as nice as to take away your working materials and send you away for a few months or years. You probably wouldn't have even made it to someplace quite as comfy as a court of law. There probably would have been a mob of people at your front door knocking each other over to be the one that got to string you up by your genitals in the town square.

          Yes, we may feel that the government (or whoever) is watching us more closely in the past few years than it had in recent memory, but let's not blow things out of proportion, or forget what things were like in the past.

    • Re:examples? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by alnya ( 513364 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:09AM (#9387410)
      I find this [raph.com] to be a good example of being "nearly-there".
      Didn't Freud talk about this in his examination of the unheimlich? We're freaked out by stuff thats almost-but-not-quite human.

      Add your own jokes here
      • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bogie ( 31020 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:22AM (#9387577) Journal
        That's simply amazing. That picture looks like someone just used the Healing Brush on a Real photo. If you told me that was a real photo cleaned up I'd definitely believe you at first glance. For me personally only the Forehead and of course the shirt look fake.

        On the topic at hand I really would rather the people not look totally real in the types of games I play, FPS. But for Adventure/Mystery games (do they make them anymore btw) etc it could be really cool. Of course real looking people with Brain Dead AI will ruin things. I think the graphic component will arrive well before the AI does. I mean if your playing a game and start acting stupid most AI characters just stare blankly into space not commenting. I want to see games where the Characters are like "Hey jackass, stop running around me in circles" etc.
    • Re:examples? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pomakis ( 323200 ) <pomakis@pobox.com> on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:12AM (#9387446) Homepage
      I'd like to see some examples of these pictures. Sure they are creepy, sometimes people can be fooled though. I had a picture of Aki in a bikini from the Final Fantasy movie on my computer. My girlfriend found it and wanted to know why I had it. She didn't beleive me that it wasn't a real person.

      I think that creating a still image realistic enough to fool the human brain is a lot easier than creating an animated image realistic enough to fool the human brain. The article's statement that "Neuroscientists argue that our brains have evolved specific mechanisms for face recognition, because being able to recognize something 'wrong' in someone else's face has long been crucial to survival" is a gross understatement. A considerably large amount of the brain is specifically dedicated to recognizing facial expressions. This includes all of the subtle movements that are involved in facial expressions. It's these subtle movements that are very difficult to artificially animate accurately enough to fool the human brain. That's why the article uses the term "animated corpse". Even something as 'trivial' as a slightly unnatural pertubation of one small cheeckbone twitch is enough to tell the human brain that something is wrong.

  • by illumina+us ( 615188 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:48AM (#9387140) Homepage
    If you are refering to games such as UT2k3/UT2k4, Doom III, Deus Ex: Invisible War, etc. I am wondering what you are referring to as realistic human graphics? Since when did human skin look like it was gone over with mop and glo a few times? All new video game engines for some reason or another want to make evey damn thing in the game shiny!
  • ...right here [arclight.net] .

    There's a bit in there about how Aesop's fables are more effective because he used animals rather than people for his characters... interesting stuff.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:51AM (#9387170)
    scary pictures in case of slashdot effect


  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:52AM (#9387183)
    Also from Slate, about high-definition TV being bad for porn [msn.com], because it's just too clear. Everything looks better in porn when it's a bit blurry.
  • I thought the same (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:55AM (#9387230) Homepage Journal
    Recently, Ive thought the same thing. I think it ultimately has to do with how they get thier models. A lot of people dont actually realize that these charactors arent just made up from scratch, throwing together millions of polygons, but rather, they take the subject and put them in a precision 3d scanning device which constructs the model for them. At that point, the facial expressions are largely left up to the development team to take care of, and thats where it all falls apart.

    This might seem a bit bizaar, but disney's anamatronics, while always looked fake, had UNCANNY mouth movements and facial expressions. They were so on par, to this day I am still amazed... and wonder why no one else can get that close.
  • by saddino ( 183491 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:56AM (#9387235)
    I've read in a number of places that game developers have discovered that the more "real" the physics engine, the less "fun" a game feels. Of course, for simulations, you do want accuracy. But for other games, you want "just the right amount" of realism to envelop the user in a believable environment, but not so much so that it mimics the somewhat boring constraints of real-life.
  • Americas Army (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zelet ( 515452 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:56AM (#9387236) Journal
    The developers have changed Americas Army recently to include realistic "death drops." It is actually VERY creapy to watch someone shot in the head snap back and collapse and then roll down a hill. It really makes you not want to play anymore.
    • Re:Americas Army (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:03AM (#9387326) Homepage Journal
      Since America's Army is supposed to be at least partly a recruiting and pre-training tool, as a former medic, I say: GOOD. Anyone who wants a realistic combat experience in a video game ... should get exactly that.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I had the same feeling when playing "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time". I just could never have the heart to empty a jar containing a goldfish onto the ground - it would just flop about helplessly - putting it back in a pond was the only thing I could do.
    • Re:Americas Army (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:12AM (#9387445) Homepage
      The developers have changed Americas Army recently to include realistic "death drops." It is actually VERY creapy to watch someone shot in the head snap back and collapse and then roll down a hill. It really makes you not want to play anymore.

      That's one thing I've always liked about America's Army. The developers are constantly pushing to move the game towards realism. It keeps away the "haha! you sux0rz, you n00b!" bunnyhopping jerkweeds you find in games like CounterStrike. Usually I can't play for more than about 45 minutes before I need to go do something else less stressful. This is as it should be because, ultimately, what they're simulating isn't a game. I think it's been an instructive tool for showing some of these kids that it isn't like it is in movies.

      • Re:Americas Army (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Hiro Antagonist ( 310179 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @12:07PM (#9388146) Journal
        I wish I had mod points, because you're only at +4. One of the biggest thing that pisses me off when I'm sparring or playing paintball with some of these dumb-ass kids (yes, even at 23, they're still kids), is that they have no idea how a realistic combat situation works.

        Seriously. Take your average paintball geek, and tell them that they have a half-hopper to last them the entire game...let's say fifteen minutes worth. Likewise, take your average frat-boy toughguy, and see how well they do against an amateur, junior-grade boxer who is two weight classes below them. In either case, they will likely get pounded.

        Kids who have grown up on movie combat seem to think that bullets rarely strike, and that you can take kicks to the head with no ill effects as long as you know Kung Fu, and it just doesn't work that way; getting shot hurts. A lot. Yes, I know by experience, and that's just because I was an idiot[1] at the time, not because someone wanted me dead. Getting punched hurts. A lot. One good solid right cross to the jaw, and it's lights out.

        Okay. I'm done now.

        [1] Richochet from a .22 I was plinking around with as a kid. Taught me a good lesson about setting up proper backing for a target, as well as a hell of a lot more respect for firearms. Especially because it narrowly missed both my left femoral artery and a nearby testicle.
        • Re:Americas Army (Score:5, Informative)

          by EvilTwinSkippy ( 112490 ) <yoda@etoyoDALIc.com minus painter> on Thursday June 10, 2004 @12:24PM (#9388373) Homepage Journal
          What folks also don't appreciate is the fact that in war, you can be dead without even hearing the shot that killed you. Effective range on an assault rifle is about a hundred yards. Snipers can pick you from several hundred yards. Most bullets travel faster than sound.

          Helicopter gunships, artillery, cruise missiles, and aerial bombardments that can take you out miles away. Generally, if you see the enemy, it had better be through a gun sight, because if not you are already in his.

          Movies show close-in combat because it looks exciting and fills the field of view. Real combat is fought from in between cover, or at night.

      • Re:Americas Army (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Dr. Evil ( 3501 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @02:12PM (#9390046)

        The realism for me would be me sitting in the bushes thinking "Why can't we all just get along? This is so stupid, I'm going to be sent out to kill some guy because he's been sent out to kill me because somebody's F*ed up ideologies dictate that somebody else's F*ed up ideologies are F*ed up!"

        Realistic? I've never played the game, but isn't the objective of most combat to not have a fair fight? In games, an unfair fight generally isn't fun.

        Overwhelm your opponent, demoralize your opponent, and never, so to speak, put their back against the wall... you don't want to fight people who think/know they are fighting for their lives. Treat your enemy prisoners fairly and your enemy combatants will be making a daily decision as to whether or not to follow their leader. Of course your friendly combatants are making the same decision daily...

        The objective of war is to change your opponent's mind.

  • In movies too (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jonny_eh ( 765306 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:56AM (#9387240)
    It seems as though that 'the movies' have been in the uncanny valley for a little while. I thought that "The Hulk" was very realistic, but it was missing 'something'. I didn't care too much about that but it seems as though most people instantly pointed and said "FAKE!". It's like the 90/90 rule. "The first 90% of the code accounts for the first 90% of the development time. The remaining 10% of the code accounts for the other 90% of the development time". We are now in the last 10% of making realistic CGI humans, and it isn't easy!
    • "The first 90% of the code accounts for the first 90% of the development time. The remaining 10% of the code accounts for the other 90% of the development time".

      Was this supposed to be a joke, or just yet another product of the stellar American education system?

  • What about art? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lispy ( 136512 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:58AM (#9387259) Homepage
    If this was true then I really wonder why this doesn't apply to classical art. I mean, if I visit a gallery of the great masters and look into the faces on the paintings I can really attach to it. And so can millions of people. You can see the love, the fear, the hate in these paintings. I know it is not animated but still, humans seem to be capable of creating artificial pictures of themselves. The point, as I see it, is that game developers are just particulary bad at it.
  • by SkankhodBeeblebrox ( 581971 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:58AM (#9387264)
    From the article:

    When an android, such as R2-D2 or C-3PO, barely looks human, we cut it a lot of slack. It seems cute. We don't care that it's only 50 percent humanlike.

    If you know ANYONE who even VAGUELY resembles R2-D2, I want to see pictures!! (yes, I know they were using them as examples of androids, but jesus... I think using C3PO alone would have sufficed :P
  • Uncanny Valley (Score:4, Interesting)

    by powerlinekid ( 442532 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:02AM (#9387313)
    This [arclight.net] appeared on Slashdot a while ago.

    The general premise is that has things move towards looking more life like, at a certain point they end up in the "uncanny valley" if they aren't perfect. This is where things look real enough, but the brain sees something wrong with it.

    The human brain (and I'd suspect a lot of other species) is very good at picking up the "attractiveness" of something and a lot of it is subconcious. This obviously has developed for mating as a way of choosing the best possible mate. An example would be looking at a girl, being attracted to her and having no idea why i.e what specific features makes her attractive to you?. The counter example would be looking at another girl and finding her repulsive for one little flaw , say a limp or a mishapen nose, even though the rest of her is fine.

    The reason cartoons and classic animation don't cause this is because we don't take them seriously.
  • by Badam ( 222642 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:02AM (#9387315) Homepage
    I read the article, and came away unconvinced.

    I buy the starting premise of the article: that as computer render figures get more human, viewers become harsher judges of the figures. Mario was cute, while the much more lifelike CGI Neo, in the Matrix Reloaded, was stiff and zombielike.

    Since this becomes more true the better the rendering, the Slate writer concludes that computer rendered humans will always look creepy.

    I suspect this is another one of those computers-will-never-be-able-to-act-human arguments. Most people want to reassure themselves that there's something inherently irreproducible about life, and humanity. This desire leads us to predict that computers won't be able to render convincing humans, beat a person at chess, or ever create art.

    My guess is that a decade from now, people will look at predictions like those in the Slate article, and laugh.

    I've seen paintings that look intensely lifelike, so why should such representations be beyond the capabilities of future computers?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:02AM (#9387320)
    Most humans are inherently creepy.

    Why would machine replicas be any different?
  • Dunno (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dark Lord Seth ( 584963 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:03AM (#9387323) Journal

    Guess there'd be a market for both realistic and unrealistic human characters in games. Clearly, realistic characters would do very well in RPGs and simulation games like The Sims. Try out the "The Sims 2 Body Editor" for some sense of what to expect from EA soon. It's not bad, nice and realistics. On the other hand, there are games where realistics characters aren't as important, such as FPS games. Who cares about a realistic chin lines on the enemy soldier if you're a few mouse clicks away from turning said realistic character into a corpse with a lovely ragdoll physics system?

    Same thing with movies, some will obviously develop more on a "cartoonish" look, such as anime gone 3d. No matter how hard they try, they can never make a 16 year old school girl with blue hair that can handle a 300 foot robot come over as realistic. Then again, eventually, there will be serious movies with close to no real actors in it. It will all be rendered because having a large cluster is cheaper then having Keanu Reeves ruin your movie with some atrocious acting...

  • by Aaron_Pike ( 528044 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:03AM (#9387330) Homepage
    This isn't exactly a repost, but we have discussed this before. The only article I could find in the /. archive was this one [slashdot.org]. There was another one that lead me to this very nice paper on the Uncanny Valley [arclight.net], which is the area of resemblance to human features that is not quite realistic enough and not abstract enough for people to feel comfortable with; it resembles more closely a corpse than a living being.

  • Too symetrical (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xyote ( 598794 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:03AM (#9387339)
    Real humans don't have such perfect symetry. It's true that better symetry is considered more beautiful but nobody has perfect symetry. And people who look too good, ie. too symetrical, do look sort of creepy.
  • Shrek (Score:5, Informative)

    by jobugeek ( 466084 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:04AM (#9387342) Homepage
    I remember watching a 'making of' show about the first Shrek movie and they said they purposely made the girl less human-like for the same reason. That she got to a point were it was freaky to have her look that human.
    • Re:Shrek (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MyHair ( 589485 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:21AM (#9387562) Journal
      I remember watching a 'making of' show about the first Shrek movie and they said they purposely made the girl less human-like for the same reason. That she got to a point were it was freaky to have her look that human.

      The way I remember it is that they said she looked so realistic she looked out-of-place in contrast to the intentionally cartoony/exaggerated sets and other characters.
  • by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:04AM (#9387347)
    I thought about this very thing watching Jude Law play a robotic gigalo. Unless STDs and the fear of AIDS became rampant, would women really want this? Law's makeup was pancaked to show he was not the generation of Haley-Joel.

    This is an interesting problem, if we don't continue to attempt to get to 100%, we will never get there - yet going through the 80th to 99th percentile will be creepy.

    I don't have any issues doing it in computer gfx. Some of the new techniques used in Pixar's The Untouchables, such as the way hair moves in water - go towards the overall body of knowledge of how to create actors on screen that you don't know are real. The new Spiderman seems mostly CGI, or motion captured and sped up. This eventually makes for better movies, and games in which the protaganist NEEDS to be human is essential.

    But in robotics, I even think the face in the new adaptation of Asimov's "I, Robot" is really sinister. I don't see society even accepting that in robotics. I think the farthest people will go is C-3P0.
    • by Squid ( 3420 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:28AM (#9387666) Homepage
      C3P0, now that you mention it, has those huge perplexed-looking eyes. A totally neutral robot face DOES look a tiny bit creepy and corpselike. C3P0 looks submissive and nonthreatening, his facial expression works for almost every state of emotion he expresses (also a tribute to Anthony Daniels' ability to make anything in the script sound like it goes with that expression).

      Are we really to the point where we begin to talk about human-machine interfaces in terms of RACIAL relations? "Nonthreatening", where have you heard that before?

      Still, if C3P0 was a PERFECTLY human-looking android, that same wide-open look would creep you the fuck out, like someone walking around with no eyelids.
  • Sad case (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thpdg ( 519053 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:09AM (#9387417) Journal
    Is this why burn victims strike people so oddly? Everyone reacts differently to them, but not usually in a normal way. Once these poor people loose their identities, they become something else, to everyone else. It's not fair to them, they're still them!
    • Re:Sad case (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ubergrendle ( 531719 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:36AM (#9387783) Journal
      The human brain is the best pattern recongition mechanism every discovered. There is nothing remotely upon our technological horizon that can mimic or replace the pattern recognition ability that is inherent in advanced mammals. There's a level of function that we understand abstractly, but have no working model for.

      In these posts there's been alot of discussion about symmetry and its associations with beauty, but I think that simplifies things too much. I like to look at inverse reactions to beauty...horror. A misshappen human figure we natural recoil against. Its probably an biological protocol that evolved to have us avoid diseased members of our species that are not viable partners for procreation.

      Think of the grotesequely repulsive reactions you have.
      1. Burn victims and disfiguring diseases like leoprosy or facial cancers (victims of which who deserve tremendous sympathy and support)...
      2. Misproportinate artistic representation (think "Black Hole Sun" video)...
      3. Botched or excessive body manipulation (e.g. excessive weightlighting, or breast impants/face lifts). Think Michael Jackson.

      There was a pastiche diagram I once saw, comprised of pictures of reaslitic human female body parts compiled together in the proportions of Barbie. It was so creepy i have shivers up and down my spine.

      I am hoping that HDTV and its realism will have a calming effect on our air brushed, perfectionist, image-perfect culture. I think women have a much more difficult time with body image due to our media than men (although Calvin Klein has been trying to change this for years, fark you CK). Once people realise how heavily made up Catherine-Zeta Jones is, or how Jennifer Aniston always has a soft lense used, maybe people will be more comfortable with their own selves.
  • by Jameth ( 664111 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:13AM (#9387463)
    I'm glad the rest of the world realizes it. I've known I hated looking at people for years now.
  • by dfn5 ( 524972 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:18AM (#9387527) Journal
    Now I know why the band in Jabba's palace look alot better than Jar Jar. According to this article one is more likely to cut the muppets more slack than computer animation. So Lucas should take note and go back to muppets.
  • Interstate '76 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SlipJig ( 184130 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:19AM (#9387534) Homepage
    I liked the stylized, animated cut-scenes in Interstate '76. That was a great game. Ya dig?
  • Robophobia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sakusha ( 441986 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:20AM (#9387548)
    This topic reminds me of an old episode of Doctor Who. A society has android robots but people start developing "robophobia." The Doctor says it's because the robots have lifelike responses in all but one area, facial expressions. The robots all have beautifully sculpted but immobile faces, so this freaks people out on a subliminal level, it's like talking to a dead person.
    Of course this was partly a sly commentary on the cheapness of the BBC's special effects on the show, of course they didn't have the budget to do really great robot effects, so they just wrote crappy effects into the storyline. But maybe they were on to something, they were ahead of their time in anticipating the social effects of lifelike robots.
  • by tgibbs ( 83782 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @11:26AM (#9387621)
    I think this is what killed the Final Fantasy film. The characters were so realistic that my brain accepted them as human--and then spent the rest of the film wondering, "What's wrong with them?" The problem is that we are very sensitive to the subtleties of human behavior. As long as you aren't actually fooled, you are impressed by the quality of the simulation. But if it is good enough for you to take it for human, then what would otherwise be a minor flaw in an excellent simulation suddenly seems like something pathological about another person. So beyond a certain point, if the simulation is not perfect, it starts to seem disturbingly wrong in some undefinable way.

    I'd love to see a remake of the Matrix films, in which all of the "in the Matrix" sequences were done with computer animation, like the excellent "Flight of the Osiris" short by the Final Fantasy team. In that context, I think this "problem" would become an asset.
  • Grimwade's Syndrome (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Squid ( 3420 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @12:20PM (#9388321) Homepage
    In an ep of Doctor Who (Robots of Death) was bandied about the term "Grimwade's Syndrome", a made-up name for a made-up condition where people go crazy in close quarters with robots, because they lack the usual body language to let humans know there are humans in the room.

    Not much in Doctor Who turns out to be startlingly prescient, but that certainly did. Grimwade's Syndrome is the best way to describe what the article is talking about - the discomfort of interacting (even one-way, via movie screen) with a "thing" that looks human while every intuitive sense in your brain screams not human.

    There's a lot that can be talked about here. I watch our pet bunnies interact with our cat - the cat doesn't try to eat them, which is interesting in itself, but more interesting is how the bunnies respond to the cat. They are confused by her. She is, to them, an only slightly funny-looking bunny, but frustratingly she does not "speak" their language. She doesn't make bunny body language, nor does she respond to it when the bunnies try to communicate with her via body language. I imagine what the bunnies are experiencing is similar to our notional Grimwade's Syndrome, they're interacting with a creepy simulacrum of a bunny that doesn't act quite right.

    Or consider this. Because we actually have an "FPU" (Face Processing Unit) in our brains, we pick up on degrees of subtlety in faces - we have perhaps a too-strict sense of beauty, in terms of which faces we find pleasing (ever stop to think how important symmetry is in a face?) - and we see faces anywhere there is even a remotely facelike shape, including the Moon. (I suspect it will come to be the defining characteristic of the human species that we can see a human face there - machine vision systems and alien intelligences will both stare at it and say "I still don't see it".)

    Humans therefore tend to react very strongly (understatement) to anything that makes the "FPU" work too hard. If it's sorta like a face but has big things wrong with it, it's "ugly" - maybe even to the point of being a "monster", be it an eyeless skull, a Grey Alien, or a person with a deformity or disfigurement. What IS an ideal, simple thing for the FPU to play with? We may describe an attractive person as "easy on the eyes" but I'd also make a case that the face detector also has an easy time with Hello Kitty, and Hello Kitty looks nothing like Jennifer Connelly. And people tend not to be scared of the "faces" found on the fronts of some cars (unless the driver is a maniac or the car is a Cuda) or of the man in the Moon for that matter, who is greatly distorted and asymmetrical at that. But hey, it's a complex and poorly understood system.

    What's interesting is what happens to people who've had damage to that part of the brain. Did anyone else catch the show - mighta been Scientific American Frontiers - where they profiled a guy who had a head injury and now believes his family have been replaced by clones? The kicker was that when they CALLED him and spoke to him over the phone, he believed it was really them, but in person he was certain, despite all better knowledge, that these were not his parents, these were replicants of some kind. Something to do with the part of his brain that considers a person familiar, was malfunctioning, and something at a higher level in his brain was getting uncomfortably confused between people who LOOK like his parents but do not register lower-level feelings of recognition like his parents would. The compulsion to believe this overrode all his better sense: he KNEW these were his real parents, but couldn't make it real in his head.

    We're ALL in that boat now with CGI. Our brains are confused: our FPUs are satisfied that the faces look real, but everything else is wrong, the movement is wrong, the behavior is wrong. We process what we're seeing as some kind of weird painting or a reanimated corpse. (And yes, Michael Jackson does trigger this response now that much of his face doesn't move normally when he speaks.) That creepy
  • by uncadonna ( 85026 ) <mtobis@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Thursday June 10, 2004 @12:43PM (#9388661) Homepage Journal
    Saw the trailer for "Polar Express" before the new Harry Potter movie. I was revolted, far beyond my ordinary mundane revulsion for Christmas stories, but couldn't really express why.

    This explains it.

  • America's Army teeth (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spoonyfork ( 23307 ) <spoonyfork AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday June 10, 2004 @03:37PM (#9391119) Journal
    Ever ghost a teammate in America's Army (before version 2.1) and panned around? Sometimes if your subject was standing next to wall your point view would get crammed into the body of the solider itself. At this point you were looking out at the world from his insides. It appeared as a crude wireframe for the most part. For the other part, the developers rendered the backs of the teeth and gums inside the head. Let me tell you, this looked so damn creepy the first time I saw it I couldn't stop staring at it. I later wondered why they bothered rendering the teeth if you can't even see them from the outside anyway? It had to be to creep people out. Had to be. *shiver*

Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat. -- Christopher Morley