Saturday, October 18, 2014

AI- Machines that seem human- WNYC

Have We Finally Conquered the Uncanny Valley?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 - 08:00 AM

Chris Jones's CGI creation 'Ed' Chris Jones's CGI creation "Ed" (via)
Animating a convincingly realistic human being has been the holy grail of computer animation, or CGI (computer-generated imagery), but animators have learned some lessons about claiming to have cracked the code. The classic cautionary tale is The Polar Express, from 2004. Released with enormous fanfare, the film's animated characters looked real . . . ish. And audiences recoiled in horror.

CGI bodies have been plagued by certain recurring problems: their skin has realistic texture, but the muscle movements are too smooth, or too jerky. Their eyes remind us of the dead. They are stuck in the Uncanny Valley, a term coined by Japanese roboticists for the creepiness we feel toward a humanoid that is missing a spark of humanity. 

But eventually someone will conquer that valley, and it may well be Chris Jones. A freelance animator in Australia, Jones has spent the past two years working on a character he first called Human; now he goes by Ed. Jones has been posting videos of his progress on his blog. The first intriguing test was Ed’s hands.

Jones posted further “test runs” of Ed’s face – the wrinkles around his eyes, how he might express emotions. Another video begins with a close-up of an eye, then zooms out to reveal a shockingly natural looking CG man, who even has a sense of humor about his predicament.  Right now Ed is just at proof-of-concept stage; there's no word on when he will appear as more than a disembodied head. When Ed gets a body, Chris Jones will know what to do with him. Jones has the chops to tell a good story and animate characters with relatable emotions, as in the charming short The Passenger.


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