I swear, this is my last entry on the Uncanny Valley. Next week, I plan on pointing out the weird politics of Disney princess movies. But for now, the Uncanny Valley, and KARA.
This is a tech demo by Quantic Dream, testing their graphics engine for the PS3. I can almost imagine the developers sitting around a table, saying, “Hey, we’ve got to test our graphics — why not start out with a robot being tested?” Then the story turns dark. Maybe someone didn’t pay for their share of lunch. And then they paid for donuts later? I don’t really know.
One of the things that makes me like this film is that it almost manages to avert the Uncanny Valley. Maybe it’s because we just stare at one robot in an unnaturally harsh light. She has completely human proportions, because she’s motion-captured and made to look exactly like Valorie Curry:
For me, the Uncanny Valley hits when she steps into the box to be shipped out of the factory. Something about the way her hand and arm move just throws me. In fact, as soon as she steps out of the white light, she seems to be more computer-generated and less human.
But the short also tells a story, it’s more than just a tech demo, which is perhaps why it hits you as hard as it does. My favorite bit is around 3:45.
Kara: Oh I see. I…I thought…
Operator: You thought? What did you think?
Then one of the robotic arm circles across her, almost threateningly, as she considers her next words. The shot could have worked just fine without the robot arm moving, but it’s just that extra piece that makes the emotions all that more convincing.
I have no idea what Quantic Dream is going to do, as I don’t play video games. But I’m still pretty excited about this film.