Uncanny Valley

Apr 1–29
Barter Stage II

By Thomas Gibbons

A jaunt into the future where Claire, a neuroscientist, forms a relationship over time with Julian, a non-biological human. Explore the painful divide between creator and creation and the inherent unpredictability of consciousness as we redefine what it means to be human in the twenty-first century.

Director's Notes

Being Human

“Accurately modeling and rendering the ocean is highly intense from a computational perspective – but it’s considerably harder to accurately portray an artificial simulation of the human face...."

“Human faces contain a subtlety that’s incredibly difficult to capture. Consider the wide range of skin textures, pore sizes, bumps, humps, colors, and other features that all have to interact in a completely natural manner in order for the illusion to hold. And that’s before we even think about modeling beards, goatees, and the like."

“Anyone attempting to build a believable human facsimile also has to beware of the ‘uncanny valley.’ This is a school of thought that says human copies which are almost – but not quite – perfectly human can cause big-time revulsion in us real humans.”

The above quote is from a 2013 article by Dan Olds entitled “Bridging the Uncanny Valley”.

The term “uncanny valley” is used in reference to the phenomenon whereby a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it. The term originates from a very loose translation of a 1970s essay in which Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori coined the phrase Bukimi No Tani along with creating a graph that plotted the emotional response of a human being to a robot against the increase in the perceived realism of a robot; the graph showed a significant dip at the point where the robot’s resemblance to a human is perceived to be almost exact.

We have come a long way toward the creation of non-biological humans since Mori’s essay. Impressive progress has been made on the simulation of the human form – the skin, movement, looks, gestures, subtleties, etc. We are amazingly close to creating synthetic DNA. Infusing that DNA into non-biological forms are a next logical step. If we can capture and infuse our memories and our personalities into this non-biological form, is it not possible to create a ‘human’ that will live forever? Will this non-biological human be perfect? Or will it be infused with our own wonderful idiosyncrasies?

In the end, this all begs the question of “What does it mean to be human?”

Richard Rose
Director, Uncanny Valley

Cast & Credits

Cast

Claire: Mary Lucy Bivins
Julian: Sean Maximo Campos

Collaborators

Director: Richard Rose
Set Designer: Hana Goff
Costume Designer: Lee Alexander Martin
Lighting Designer: Camille Davis
Sound Designer: Tony Angelini
Stage Manager: Sara Douglas

Corporate Sponsors
Reynolds American