Uncanny Valley of Interaction Design

Mitigating the Uncanny Valley

Human interaction in the real world is often incredibly frustrating and difficult, and replication on a 1:1 scale isn’t in our user’s best interest. Some of the best examples of this allieviation is in picking up, throwing, storing objects. A lot of VR/AR technology aims to completely rid us of having to ever clean up our rooms.

As this approach further bends reality, we’re seeing a closer alignment to user need and the Uncanny Valley, in good (and bad) ways. Some really great ways of bending the line of reality is that of Fisherman's Tale and SUPERHOT where we can see this playful idea of not needing to be bound to "normal rules" of space and time.

Hitting the Uncanny Valley

When human embodiment is utilized positively, this can yield a conveyance of otherworldliness. However, when a proprioceptive sense involve objects that don’t match a player’s body (like hands or elbows that don’t match where the user is in space) or an unexpected interaction between an object and a player’s body (walking through a table) occur, then it normally causes a reaction towards the uncanny valley.

A great example of this is The Proteus Effect (Link To Study) which describes a phenomenon in which the behavior of an individual, within virtual worlds, is affected by the characteristics and interactions of their digital avatar. Many studies have been done on virtual embodiment and the effects it has on users, including ownership and control over limbs (tails, arms, etc) that don’t physically exist.

Ironically there can be proprioceptive disconnects more frequently in things that are close to being real, than there are with ones that are distinctly not, due to the flexibility of our brains towards replacement. For example, a user might feel a sensation of uncanny valley with realistic hands but with the wrong size or human skin tone; however their brain will totally accept sci-fi, robotic, or even purple appendages.

Slam Dunking the Uncanny Valley

An interesting topic to this is the line between association and dissaciation. Many people using different types of social media applications like Snapchat and Tiktok, oftentime find filters directly applied to their faces as an interesting form of discovering new forms of personal identity.

However, even when we are aware of the horrors: sometimes you still just have to go for full body horror.

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