Dancing Through the Uncanny Valley

This video showed up in one of my “Following” feeds over at Google+; Thanks, Jeff Brown!

I found this video to be oddly compelling and more than a bit unsettling. Ostensibly a “dubbed” video of a man virtuosically dancing to the music of Foster the People, I kept feeling like this was not a human I was watching. Partly it was the lack of expression on the man’s face, and partly the mechanical “feel” of some of the dance moves. The synthesized music was appropriate, spacey and weird and eerily reflected by staccato dance moves.

I was reminded of the “Uncanny Valley”, a phrase coined by the Japanese robotics professor Masahiro Mori in 1970, well before the age of massive digital manipulation of visual and aural data. A summary and definition from a Wikipedia page:

The uncanny valley is a hypothesis … which holds that when human replicas look and act almost, but not perfectly, like actual human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers.

Of course the video shows a presumably real man dancing, but I surmise that quite a bit of video editing has been done to the original video data; thus the vaguely creepy feelings I at least had while watching. What do you think?

On a lighter note, here is a masterfully cast and performed video skit, sort of a modern version of one of the old “Candid Camera” segments. How would you react if you saw what appeared to be a crashed NASA satellite embedded in your car? Thanks go to Robin Shapiro for inadvertently alerting me to this video. Who is Robin and why has she ended up in my Facebook feed? I have no idea. Must be a friend of a friend…

Larry

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6 Comments

Filed under Humor, Music, Visual Arts

6 responses to “Dancing Through the Uncanny Valley

  1. bev

    Came back to comment on this one during a break from plastering.

    This one is strange, but I think there is a genre of dance that seems to be moving into even stranger territory. Sorry I don’t have any links but it should be easy enough to find examples on youtube. It is a sort of Goth Bellydancing style that seems to be performed mainly at Steam Punk and Goth events. It is fascinating to watch, but also sort of repelling because the motions are so exaggerated that they are more like contortionist stuff with the intention of mimicking cobras and such. The costumes tend to be a fusion of traditional Arabian type outfits with steam punk or Goth leather. I first came across it last year when doing some looking around at steam punk art while doing an art installation. There are also steam punk male dancers who do mechanical type dancing that is very weird looking. It all has a feel of Victorian freak show carnivalesque about it. Can’t quite explain how it makes me feel, but sort of a sense of attraction and repulsion.

  2. Joan

    This satellite joke is just hilarious. The U-tubers were discussing it and why the people would be so gullible. Well.. it was a pretty convincing punk, considering there was to be debris falling all over. Someone noted it looked like a mock-up of the original Sputnik, but these people were too young to have remembered that anyway. Then there were the space experts explaining what condition it would reeeallly be in if it were real. It was just masterfully planned. And the guys in the black coats that drove up and spirited it away was the final stroke. just buhahhaha! Thanks! I needed a good laugh.

  3. Joan

    PS. Bev. I have just visited your blog for the umpteenth time wherein I get spirited away to wonderful places via your great photographs. Now I just have to ask you ..how in the world did you learn to do all that stuff? The plastering is amazing. That is absolutely professional. Looking at that house coming alive again, is the most inspiring thing. All that and you still have time to paint and take photos and write poetry. If they ever do a bio of creative human dynamos of North America,you’d be the first subject.
    You are indeed a wonder. I have visions of the Road Runner’s dust r dust..heading back down the road to Bisbee, and when they close it to a tighter shot, it will be you. I should move this message over to your blog.. but I’m too sleepy at present.

  4. Joan

    Larry..I need a spell check..clean up on aisle 4. (grin) Road Runner.

  5. [a flat-sounding tinny voice can be heard coming from the ceiling]

    Larry, please report to aisle four — it’s a code 9.

    “Oh, I’m sorry! I seem to have knocked over this display!”

    “Don’t worry, ma’am — I’ll get it all cleaned up. You just go on with your shopping!”

  6. bev

    Joan – In reply to your question about how I have learned to do the work such as plastering. I try to read up on techniques and materials and sometimes watch youtube videos if available. However, most of what I know was learned through trial and error. I plastered a downstairs room last summer and it is nowhere near as good as my work upstairs. I may give it another coat next summer, but everyone who has stayed in that room has remarked on how much they liked the plaster, so perhaps not. In any case, it’s difficult but artistic work – the difficulty being more to do with the physicality of working above your head on ceilings. I do prefer using older methods with this place rather than just coming in and drywalling or ripping out old windows t install new ones. My plan is to do pretty much all the work myself to keep the costs down, and just restore to a state of stabilization rather than trying to turn the place into something that it never was. As you probably know, a house this old can be a real money pit if you get too carried away with renovation work.
    And, yes, it is true that I am very creative and energetic. I can’t sit still for long and always have a few ideas for new projects forming well before the current projects are completed. It all seems to keep me going!

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