uncanny valley

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Calque of Japanese 不気味の谷 (ぶきみのたに, bukimi no tani), from Middle Chinese (pjuw, not) + (kì-mjɨ̀j, sense, sentiment, literally taste and smell) + Japanese (no, noun modifier particle) + (たに, tani, valley). First used in 1970 by roboticist Masahiro Mori.


uncanny valley

  1. (aesthetics, psychology) A range of appearances, mannerisms, and/or behaviors of a humanoid figure that are subtly different from human and thereby cause feelings of discomfort, such as fear or revulsion.
    • 1970, Masahiro Mori, The Uncanny Valley, volume 7, number 4, pages 33–35:
      So in this case, the appearance is quite human like, but the familiarity is negative. This is the uncanny valley.
    • 2006, Sebastiano Bagnara; Gillian Crampton Smith, Theories and Practice in Interaction Design:
      However, when the robot is so similar that it may be momentarily mistaken for real, the transition has a local minimum characterized by a sudden decrease of familiarity, the "uncanny valley"—a dip of frustration due to unmet expectations.
    • 2007, Jonathon Keats, Control + Alt + Delete: A Dictionary of Cyberslang:
      Almost human in appearance, yet not quite, the characters in 3-D computer animations are more disturbing than overt caricatures. The realm these creatures occupy is called the uncanny valley [] .
    • 2015, Kathleen Richardson, An Anthropology of Robots and AI[1], Routledge, →ISBN:
      More unusual is perhaps the appropriation of a psychoanalytical theory to robotics–which is, in effect, what the uncanny valley aims to do. Mori's own descriptions of the uncanny follow a similar pattern to Freud's, where he indicates the kinds of events, states, processes or objects that might provoke the uncanny valley, particularly the theme of the dead.


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