Normally, the Uncanny Valley theory is used to critique graphical realism in games, but it also applies to AI. In this latest exclusive Gamasutra feature, designer David Hayward examines AI's Uncanny Valley
, citing games such as Valve's Half-Life 2
and Vivendi's supernatural shooter F.E.A.R.
Hayward begins his analysis by examining the free interactive drama Façade
, explaining how that despite the game's obvious shortcomings, the slice of virtual life still manages to push the boundaries of “emotional engagement”:
“On each run through Façade it pushes back at me a little, marginally understanding a bit of what I'm doing and saying. It does feel broken, but within a small and repetitive setting it keeps on creating microscopic and novel bits of emotional engagement. All of those fall to experience eventually: my unconscious gradually catches up with my conscious knowledge, learning that Trip and Grace are things, not people.
The ability of things to fool us is often a question of resolution. Something that can fool you at a glance will not stand against a close look or a prolonged gaze. Spend long enough watching a magician doing the same trick, or see it from the right vantage, and eventually you'll unravel it.
This goes for CGI imagery of people, such as photo-realistic vector art or 3D models. What looks incredibly realistic at a distance may not under closer scrutiny. When we’re accustomed to or expectant of it, a lack of detail can be stylistic to the point of being painterly, but when unexpected it can pitch a nearly photographic representation headlong into the Uncanny Valley.”
You can now read the complete feature
, which includes a more detailed look at the Uncanny Valley and how it relates to artificial intelligence in video game experiences (no registration required, please feel free to link to this column from external websites).