You probably already know that the uncanny valley isn’t a real place, it’s a term used to describe a dip in emotional response that occurs when we see something that is almost but not quite human. It is used mainly with reference to creepy humanoid robots, computer game avatars and virtual assistants. However, it’s an apt term in more ways than one, as sometimes my research has felt like a journey through a landscape with some rolling hills but more than its fair share of rough terrain, unscalable heights and dark and terrifying plummets.
I’ve been exploring the uncanny valley effect since 2006 and this seminar will talk about how my approach to the tantalising question of whether the effect exists and what might cause it has developed over the years. I’ll share some of my most interesting findings about near-human faces and talk about my experiences of working in an emerging field and the methodological, philosophical and practical issues of setting out to study a novel and complex area. These considerations have informed my thinking all the way through my PhD and culminated in my development of a new framework for research in this area which I hope will ultimately help researchers to understand this fascinating relationship between human-likeness and eeriness.