Who Owns the Rights to Your Face?

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Attack of the Uncanny Valley

The uncanny valley looms large over all the advances in CGI, but what happens when technology finally crosses that barrier? There are experts and evidence both suggesting that the floodgates of confusion caused by realistic CGI have already started to open, and the results are stranger than people may have even imagined.

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Grief, how many films can be brought in here? Hundreds that show the blurring between fantasy and reality, and possibly explaining why people are always so scared of computer games that 'cross the boundary' (Like GTA's Hot Coffee etc.)

I think this said it all though

A spokesperson for the magazine replied, "I don't see what the big issue is here."

You really don't. Mr Spokesman won't see the big issue until he's been fooled by it. The big issue is that in any other form this would be considered libellous.

It's, again, a media spin of being afraid of the uncanny valley while those that are "respected" delve into it time and time again.

I personally don't see a big problem. If I see a person in a photograph and judge him on that, doesn't that say more about me than him?

I for one, welcome the new virtual reality, where the lines between fantasy and reality is blurred. We might have less real crimes if that came to be.

Oh media. How we take the tools that were meant to do good and use them for evil/laughs. I think the cover with Andy Roddick's picture is pretty hilarious. First common thought might've been "Hell, maybe he started working out more. He's ripped!" But a trained eye (like mine) or anyone with at least 10 brain cells could notice how the head and the body don't match up. But in the light of celebrities getting enhanced, that's nothing new. We're a visual species. Photos get enhanced to attract a certain crowd. Andy Roddick's could've attracted men that want to work out and build bigger arm muscles, some curious as to how he did it, women for eye candy.

So if you don't want your face/body enhanced, don't be on a cover then, silly. Or make sure that the person that's doing the Photoshop work knows what the hell they're doing.

I think many "uncanny valley" effects come from bad animation, if the model is realistic enough but the animation isn't the result looks seriously fake and weird. We're more willing to accept unrealistic animation if the rest of the character doesn't look realistic either.

The problem is in the human mind: We're so used to seeing and interacting with other humans, that each little flaw in an animation or in the model itself really stands out. One of the most important things that show that a character is fake are the eyes. Dead, soulless, plastic eyes can (and usually do) make the character fall into the "uncanny valley".

Digital 3D has a fundamental flaw too: it looks and feels fake. No mater how hard a studio works to overcome it, in the end it will still look fake, or at least shows some traces of it not being real.

Dooly95:

I for one, welcome the new virtual reality, where the lines between fantasy and reality is blurred. We might have less real crimes if that came to be.

And a lot more fantasy crimes commited in reality.

Red or blue pill, Mr. Anderson?

Personally, I don't think technology will ever be able to simulate life to the minutest detail, to the level where it can fool anyone who sees it. Especially not in games. AI and bots are never able to completely emulate another player, which is one of the reasons many companies are now focusing on multiplayer-only games, like Team Fortress 2.
The thing that makes human opponents or allies so different is their ability to think and plan. A computer can only have a finite series of responses to a given situation, whereas humans will always be able to find paths or tactics that had never been planned for. What happens if we create a wall of fire using molotov cocktails? What happens if we have a medic standing on top of a heavy while healing him? The ability to ask 'What if...' and then act on this inspiration is what gives humans the edge: Their imagination. And while computers and avatars may become more and more lifelike, they'll never be able to emulate human thought.
At least, I sincerely hope not.

Saying never here is a luxury of human mortality. Likely it won't happen in our lifetimes, but there are some obvious concerns. The things is that these advances will happen gradually and people will adjust their lives into it.

I often wonder what Ben Franklin, Jules Verne, or other forward thinkers would think of our lives if we brought them here. Certainly we are missing something of what made them "fundamentally" human, but here we are arguing to preserve our "fundamental humanness" from yet another technological creation.

Yet, we come to these forums everyday to discuss issues that a drastically smaller percentage of the human population could have during the enlightenment. Not sure if that makes us better, but it shows that the realm of technology is not simply a moral graveyard.

It seems that we are constantly concerned with obliterating ourselves. Whether it is nuclear apocalypse during the cold war or global warming now, there is always plenty of self-preserving paranoia to go around for the human race. Most of the time technology is far less sinister. Even in the instances where technology presents yet another opportunity for humans to eliminate their cherished ways of life, humans are simply creating means to demonstrate new ways in which we are not as special as we previously thought.

The great thing about the uncanny valley is that it shows us even more ways we didn't even realize we were human. You really don't miss it until it is gone. While we will keep defeating these little things with better imitation, reaching the other side of the valley will mean completely understanding humans. Perhaps it this is a thankfully unreachable goal, complete understanding of a dynamic organism and all its external manifestations is no simple task. But, at least it is a loftier and more moral objective than making replica humans to act out our basic instincts. As the Japanese men pointed out, you really don't need verisimilitude for that...

It's all fun and games until you look in the mirror and realize that you're nothing but a CGI animated Artificial Intelligence.

Oddly enough, I was reading about this recently, if you imagine for instance....a barbie doll, it comfortably outside the uncanny valley. It is clearly no-human looking, so we pick up on its human qualities, but when it comes to CGI, we see it as human, and so focus on is non human qualities more, making us uneasy. Some people think it has to do with mechanisms for detecting healthy mates. A CGI figure looks different, odd, so we reject it. Another good example of this is

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjAoBKagWQA

Doesnt the robot make you feel slightly uneasy, but you dont really know why?

{edit} sorry, I dont really know how to post Youtube windows

I think you picked a good image for the background, beautiful and creepy at the same time O.o .

I've already seen some breakdance videoclip to some DNB compilation with CGI modified faces to be obama, mccain nad pallin. but it was lo-end funny clip, so it was pretty obvious,but the diferrence between realistic is only about money and time. But it you look into any random car magsine, you can't say which pictures are renders and which are photos already, so where did he get the thought that it will take 10-15yrs?

While this article starts off introducing the uncanny valley theory, it ends up deep into something much more important: ethics of image manipulation and CGI.

Fantasy is fine as long as we understand that it's fake. We can watch shoot 'em ups on TV, we can laugh at cartoons being squished and exploded, and we can appreciate the comically-manipulated images on magazine covers. But these fakes are all acceptable because we know they are fake -- they are intentionally so. Each exaggeration is a fact being highlighted, a point trying to be made. They become a sort of subtext and commentary.

But it starts becoming concerning when those fantasies are passed off as truths. Manipulating a photo of rockets being launched in Iran to make it look more omonous or impressive is deplorable when that photo is being passed off as reality. Making a famous bodybuilder's muscles bigger than they really are both undermines the accomplishments of that bodybuilder and sets unrealistic expectations for those wishing to follow in his footsteps.

As humans, it's difficult to tell truth from fiction (just ask Decartes how much he trusts his senses). We are forced to rely on our senses to establish what's real and what is not -- an extremely important distinction. Photos, videos, and eye witness observations are all judged as reliable evidence in court. Especially online, "pics or it didn't happen," is a common indication of our reliance on images to determine authenticity.

Whether it's telling a lie or secretly doctoring a photo, it's fraud and manipulation. If we reach a point at which it's difficult or impossible to tell whether an image or video has been falsified, our world will change drastically. People will be accussed and convicted of crimes they didn't commit, people will follow authoratative orders from those without authority, and we will be forced to doubt everything we see and hear. It will become very difficult to trust anything, for fear that you will believe in a lie.

There's a major difference between a fantasy so real that it's believable and a fantasy passed off as reality. Being tricked is fine as long as we want to be tricked, but we're seeing technology used more and more to change what we think is real. It's a very dangerous, deplorable act.

From the article:

"If that Super Bowl ad had offered nothing more than the sight of Christopher Reeve walking; or if that Al Franken photo had been a perfect forgery, all we'd have to discern fantasy from reality is our feelings. And when we're at the sole mercy of our feelings, we're liable to believe in anything."

Perhaps we are liable to believe in anything, but I'd predict that people on the whole would just get more skeptical of images and movies. The pull to believe what you want to believe would be pretty strong, though...

Haasim Mahanaim:
"There is only a finite amount of time and resources that people can invest into their surroundings," says Brey. "As people invest more of their lives in virtual worlds, they have [fewer] investments to make into the real world. Virtual worlds are often more attractive, more exciting and more controllable than the real world. This may cause people to lose themselves in them, to such an extent that they start neglecting their 'real' life. They may even emotionally invest in affectionate relationships with CGI characters at the expense of such relationships with real people."

People that find it more involving to invest more time in virtual worlds than the real world are seeking an escape.
People that are invested more in CGI characters than real ones are most likely very socially awkward and anxious when confronted by groups.

Misnomer:
*snip*
The great thing about the uncanny valley is that it shows us even more ways we didn't even realize we were human. You really don't miss it until it is gone. While we will keep defeating these little things with better imitation, reaching the other side of the valley will mean completely understanding humans.

It won't mean we completely understand humans just because we can create realistic still and moving images that are facsimiles of humans.

Why do people focus so much time and effort to make realistic looking images and animations?
Isn't one of the strengths of the video game medium that it can be completely unrealistic or be about anything we can imagine?
Since photo realism is still 15-20 years away, why aren't stylized art forms more widely used in video games?

Is it just me, or does the girl in the header looks unnervingly like that Boxxy youtube-whore?

Dooly95:
I personally don't see a big problem. If I see a person in a photograph and judge him on that, doesn't that say more about me than him?

I for one, welcome the new virtual reality, where the lines between fantasy and reality is blurred. We might have less real crimes if that came to be.

If a hiring manager sees you in a photograph performing fellatio on a donkey and doesn't hire you, whether it says more about him or you is really a moot point.

I for one, welcome our CGI artist overlords. Don't screw me over.. please..

I often wonder lately why there is a such a big push to create simulated reality to such a degree that it stands in for the real thing with very minor chance of it being seen as a forgery. This article answers that question, while raising another: Can we escape the eventual plunge into such a simulacrum of reality?
As Morpheus said in The Matrix, 'Most people in the Matrix are so deeply inbedded into it that they will fight to remain." Case in point: Cypher.
Yahtzee himself, in his blasting of the Wii, has argued for Virtual Reality (or controllers made of fruit.) I myself find the Wii as it is being marketed now as a weird bastard child of reality and VR. I find it comforting though, that it keeps us on this side of reality.

Iori35:

People that find it more involving to invest more time in virtual worlds than the real world are seeking an escape.
People that are invested more in CGI characters than real ones are most likely very socially awkward and anxious when confronted by groups.

It won't mean we completely understand humans just because we can create realistic still and moving images that are facsimiles of humans.

Why do people focus so much time and effort to make realistic looking images and animations?
Isn't one of the strengths of the video game medium that it can be completely unrealistic or be about anything we can imagine?
Since photo realism is still 15-20 years away, why aren't stylized art forms more widely used in video games?

People who invest themselves into artificial reality because they may be socially awkward, are only making themselves socially awkward even more. Second Life, fun as it may be, is not a primer for real life social contact. It becomes too easy to build a fiction around yourself, that nobody would recognize you if they met you in real life.
And I wouldn't put a forecast on when photo-realism occurs, it could be as easily as tomorrow. And that's a good question for #1 and #3. My thoughts on 1 is we are already so into the computer age that we have fallen into the God Trap, where we want to make our own realities, for us to control and create in. It's just a thought.

photo-realism can be achieved today, I'd post a link, but it's not safe for work, just look on CGTALK.com, it's just that the photo you're trying to realize has to be relatively low quality.

Animation on the other hand, is much more difficult, largely because our movements, simple as they may be, affect our entire body as a chain reaction sets off. While we sit here typing, we're breathing, our nostrils open slightly more, slightly less, slightly more, and our chest rises and falls. The muscles in our arms move, just tiny amounts as a result, as do our legs, but animating all these tiny details realistically is an animator's worst nightmare, every frame changing many many variables, increasing in speed and complexity as the action of the scene rises, virtually any 5 minute sequence with characters in combat would take months. High resolution models and textures are close, but always off, because when you see the skin of a person, you're looking at pores, hairs, veins, blood vessels, dermis, abrasions, wrinkles from motion and most of these things move or change in response to the environment. And when you look into someone's eyes, you're looking at a transparent membrane over another membrane with an iris made of muscle fibers in the center. Flat textures can't emulate these minute details well enough to create an HD illusion, we must make strides in modeling and rendering technology, which will take 5-10 years, maybe less if we can get a unified curved geometry format going.

In the matrix argument, I'm mixed, I believe control on such a level is wrong for anything short of an all knowing benevolent being such as God, but as far as the simulation goes, if it tastes like steak, if it feels like stake, and it smells like stake, and doesn't kill you, then it's for all intents and purposes steak.

Imagine if the world we lived in was a mix of virtual mental projections and real life objects, imagine skinny people walking out of McDonalds on a regular basis, having just consumed a nutritious vitamin gel compound shaped like a burger, made to look and taste like one by the virtual mind projections. It has a darker side, yes, which is why I believe the system should have an off switch, which you can always reach, both in reality and in your mind, and at least a month of the year should be spent without it at all.

They did this with the image of Orville Reddenbacher. For a Superbowl commercial(One within the last couple of years) they showed a commercial with a CGI representation of the late popcorn icon listening to an iPod and making popcorn. It was very well done, almost seamless, though I could tell it was fake.

Some reactions to that commercial ranged from people finding it sick and morbid, to people finding it quite convincing. Regardless of the feelings, these people saw how realistic it was, and it stuck to them.

I've never experienced the uncanny valley for 3D animation. Real robots scare me, but anything done with a computer doesn't affect me. (i.e. i-robot, polar express, video games ect.)

Doesn't the fact that you are seeing these images in a magazine or on a computer automatically convinces you these images are not real? Or has basic human perception and common sense went out the window with the current crop of humans?

This article, unfortunately, has practically nothing to do with the uncanny valley. The uncanny valley is really about how our struggle to achieve digital realism produces awkward and unsettling results. Fooling people with digital wizardry has nothing to do with that.

That said, it will be an interesting time when "photographic evidence" is inadmissible in court.

Regarding the uncanny valley, you need only look at the work of shitty plastic surgeons to realize that much of the "problem" lies in poor artistry. There are plenty of manufactured real people that look oddly horrifying.

Srsly:

So if you don't want your face/body enhanced, don't be on a cover then, silly. Or make sure that the person that's doing the Photoshop work knows what the hell they're doing.

The problem with this, one that the article discusses in one way, is that often people don't have a say in the matter. And as the technology gets better and more widespread this issue will surely only get worse.

Very, very good closing paragraph. Nah fuck it. Very, very good read. Thank you.

Xelanath:

Srsly:

So if you don't want your face/body enhanced, don't be on a cover then, silly. Or make sure that the person that's doing the Photoshop work knows what the hell they're doing.

The problem with this, one that the article discusses in one way, is that often people don't have a say in the matter. And as the technology gets better and more widespread this issue will surely only get worse.

Yeah. It sucks cause once they sign the contract their opinion or say is null and void.

Kwil:

Dooly95:
I personally don't see a big problem. If I see a person in a photograph and judge him on that, doesn't that say more about me than him?

I for one, welcome the new virtual reality, where the lines between fantasy and reality is blurred. We might have less real crimes if that came to be.

If a hiring manager sees you in a photograph performing fellatio on a donkey and doesn't hire you, whether it says more about him or you is really a moot point.

If he was looking at said photos in the first place, I doubt I'd want to work there anyway.

The_root_of_all_evil:

Dooly95:

I for one, welcome the new virtual reality, where the lines between fantasy and reality is blurred. We might have less real crimes if that came to be.

And a lot more fantasy crimes commited in reality.

Red or blue pill, Mr. Anderson?

Sign me up. I need to be rich, but not too famous.

As someone said earlier, if it looks, smells, tastes, feels like steak, then for many purposes it is steak.

Thinking about it, I'll retract my statement of there being less crimes in real life. An escape from reality does not necessary mean freedom from morals.

For some reason, it never really occurred to me that we will ever overcome the uncanny valley effect.

I just assumed it wouldn't be possible - that no matter how precisely a human was digitally re-created, there would be something that told us that it was fake. Similar to how an expert of Egyptian artefacts can look at any fake and almost instantly tell whether it is genuine.

The idea that we could have trouble distinguishing between a digital world and real life is kind of disturbing. It'd be like being lost in a dream - and while lucid dreams are a hell of a lot of fun, I don't think I'd ever want to be trapped in one forever.

samsonguy920:
I often wonder lately why there is a such a big push to create simulated reality to such a degree that it stands in for the real thing with very minor chance of it being seen as a forgery. This article answers that question, while raising another: Can we escape the eventual plunge into such a simulacrum of reality?
As Morpheus said in The Matrix, 'Most people in the Matrix are so deeply inbedded into it that they will fight to remain." Case in point: Cypher.


People who invest themselves into artificial reality because they may be socially awkward, are only making themselves socially awkward even more. Second Life, fun as it may be, is not a primer for real life social contact. It becomes too easy to build a fiction around yourself, that nobody would recognize you if they met you in real life.
And I wouldn't put a forecast on when photo-realism occurs, it could be as easily as tomorrow. And that's a good question for #1 and #3. My thoughts on 1 is we are already so into the computer age that we have fallen into the God Trap, where we want to make our own realities, for us to control and create in. It's just a thought.

It is difficult to predict when true photo-realism is reached and the uncanny valley is overcome.
As for Second Life, I have absolutely no interest or experience with it...but it doesn't appeal to me at all.
Also, I've never understood the popularity or appeal of The Sims games.

I'm an introverted person and I am quite uncomfortable when around large groups of people.
Yet, I can't fool myself into thinking that online social interactions / scripted NPC interactions are anywhere near as meaningful
or involving as talking face to face with a person.
If there's one thing that you can't run from it's yourself.

People do like to feel in control of their lives.
Which is why I think even control over a virtual world gives some people a sense of security and satisfaction.

Interesting question about what accounts for the uncanny valley. I'm pretty sure it's the animations, or at least that is a major factor, above and beyond the freeze-frame appearances.

As evidence: there is a broad range of artistic styles in graphic novels and stories beginning with simple cartoons and reaching toward realism, but rarely there has there been much discussion of the uncanny valley in that medium. It took a robotics expert to coin the concept.

An unblinking and rigid expression and stiff body movements kill the overall effect, even with otherwise superb graphics. Likewise, smooth, natural and energetic movements can overcome simplistic graphic design.

Kwil:
If a hiring manager sees you in a photograph performing fellatio on a donkey and doesn't hire you, whether it says more about him or you is really a moot point.

Sort of depends on where you're interviewing - some employers don't automatically rule out good candidates if they don't fit the vanilla mold of white, straight, conservative conventionality. Indeed, the hiring decision in many states cannot, legally, be made on the basis of sexual orientation - though I suppose if a blanket ban were in place on any candidate who had any image of them engaging in any sexual activity available, it would pass legal muster. Which, speaking as a hiring manager and employer brings the question: what kind of a pathetic company would freak out over a sexy picture? Since when is "has an active sexual life" a disqualifying trait in adult human beings? Or is it just having a picture that somehow makes someone un-employable? I guess I just don't understand the relevance, for 99% of job openings.

Anyway, good article. Missed the biggest business opportunity to be found in all of this, however: porn.

http://www.cultureghost.org/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1267

Fausty | www.cultureghost.org

Zand88:
Is it just me, or does the girl in the header looks unnervingly like that Boxxy youtube-whore?

Now I can't unsee it

The fact that the walking Christopher Reeve was obviously computer-generated and that it was a commercial aired during the Superbowl did not stop people from believing it was real. Why? Because they wanted to believe it was real. And people go a long way to get what they want.

We're now just looking at a first step in the digitization of real people. We're able to creating a realistic 3D model and to have that model move in a believable fashion. It's only a small step to copy the voice pattern and have the model speak in a believable fashion. A real world application would be to fake the discovery of an unreleased recording by Tupac Shakur or Elvis Presley. Even if people knew it was a fake they might go with the fantasy if the song was based on the artist's lyrics, or if the artist died while working on this final song and this technology was used to finish it. Ask yourself: how many people would see a holographic Michael Jackson performing his final "This Is It" concert? How much would they be willing to pay for this?

Taking this a step further we could copy a subject's personality. There's even no need for full-blown artificial intelligence. A chat bot that copies the subject's behavior in a believable fashion would suffice. Imagine a museum that would allow you to talk to Che Guevara, Maximilien Robespierre or Abraham Lincoln. Or that you could talk to the representation of a deceased loved one. He would look, sound and act just like the original person.

I want to believe, therefor you are.

Dooly95:
If he was looking at said photos in the first place, I doubt I'd want to work there anyway.

DrFausty:

Kwil:
If a hiring manager sees you in a photograph performing fellatio on a donkey and doesn't hire you, whether it says more about him or you is really a moot point.

Sort of depends on where you're interviewing - some employers don't automatically rule out good candidates if they don't fit the vanilla mold of white, straight, conservative conventionality. Indeed, the hiring decision in many states cannot, legally, be made on the basis of sexual orientation - though I suppose if a blanket ban were in place on any candidate who had any image of them engaging in any sexual activity available, it would pass legal muster. Which, speaking as a hiring manager and employer brings the question: what kind of a pathetic company would freak out over a sexy picture? Since when is "has an active sexual life" a disqualifying trait in adult human beings? Or is it just having a picture that somehow makes someone un-employable? I guess I just don't understand the relevance, for 99% of job openings.

Good grief you two.. see that thing way over your heads? That was the point. You missed it.

Donkey fellatio was short-hand for "something that the hiring manager would find offensive for an employee to be doing", whether it's a faked porn picture, a faked prison shot, a faked shot of you having dinner with his/her spouse, whatever. And whether it would be legit or not to not hire on that basis, if we're honest, we realize you get axed from the hiring list, and should you come questioning, the standard response is "We didn't think you'd fit our firm" or some such. Or are you really that naive?

At any rate, the point is, if you're blase about this kind of technology, you haven't thought about it, it can affect your life in significant and real ways. Piss off the wrong person, and hey, suddenly pics, or one day video, of you molesting kids can get dropped off at the cop shop. Still feel it's no big deal?

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