Though this probably doesn’t apply to most of you readers, some of you have kids. And some of those kids from time to time watch shows from the gigantic cesspool of kids programming oozing from any of the number of kid-focused channels on cable. While some kid shows are watchable, and a few shows are superfun, most of the kid’s programming however is full of shoestring budgeted productions that continuously find the most bizarre new ways to be ugly. Normally I don’t go out of my way to call something out for just being a bad kid’s show. But recently I was watching a show with my son on PBS and an ad came on for this horrifying new show called Dirtgirlworld. I couldn’t believe the ugliness. It went beyond ugly into a sort of scary place, with these live-action eyes and mouths pasted onto rigid heads which are in turn pasted onto live-action bodies in Ronald McDonald suits. This production is definitely toying with the uncanny valley in a new, hideous way. (Check out this swell, mutated robot slideshow on the subject here, which that last photo still is from).
When will people understand that when you produce images with certain realistic human-like characteristics mashed up with distorted proportions or features, you are liable to trigger gut reactions of revulsion in viewers? (See our previous Sexy Robot Advertisement Failures post here for more eyeball pain.)
EDIT: I love this subject. So:
I understand that the Uncanny Valley theory is just a theory. The above linked article (with the slideshow) sheds some light on the debatable usefulness of the theory to roboticists as it is now typically referenced in pop culture circles (such as here in this post). The problem of designing appealing humanoid robots appears to be more complex than a single graph can illustrate. What these scientists should do is get together with puppet makers, cartoonists, character designers, CG modelers, and Hollywood special effects makers and work on an advanced study on human empathy towards non-human things as it relates to their appearance and movements. Cartoonists have been studying that for decades in relation to their character designs, that’s why new cartoons that dump in the face of any kind of basic appeal really get me riled. And I have a really, really wide personal definition of appeal. (See my previous most hated kid’s show design here. PBS is also guilty in that case).