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Dr. Angela Tinwell discusses the Norman Seeff podcast

After listening to the Norman Seeff Podcast on the CG Garage, Digital Human League member Angela Tinwell gave us her feedback on the relevance of his thoughts when considering the uncanny valley.

Dr Angela Tinwell

Dr Angela Tinwell

Norman Seeff’s observation that we communicate many emotions at one given time, based on previous and current experiences, is particularly prevalent to how to capture and communicate emotion in virtual human-like characters.

Seeff’s revelation that he was so concerned in capturing each individual correctly, that he actually felt scared when photographing individuals was intriguing. This raises the question, how do artists and animators feel when they are creating digital human-like characters? Are they scared and concerned with truly capturing the essence of an individual? Or do the take a slightly more confident and cavalier approach? Do they hold the opinion that being a master of the digital artwork and modelling software is sufficient? Furthermore, if emotion is communicated in a character, is it likely that digital artists and animators may portray him or her-self in a human-like virtual character (and how they would experience an emotion) rather than the individual that they are attempting to replicate? In other words, do they forget about the feelings and life experiences of that other person and instead project their own emotions and life experiences onto that character? They may feel that they have mastered the digital software, yet the craftsmanship of recognizing and capturing the essence of another individual is missing. That by definition may be what separates an artist that escapes the Uncanny Valley when simulating another human.

Building on the above, Seeff demonstrates the ability to empathize with others and that is demonstrated in his work. His ability to truly see and capture another’s personality and emotion may derive from the fact that he can empathize (i.e. forget about himself) at an emotional and cognitive level with other people and that is demonstrated in his photography. This may also be connected to Seeff’s previous career as a medical doctor and the skills and empathy required for this role.

Do we allow our human-like virtual characters freedom of expression, or is it stifled in the projection of the artist’s projection of him or her-self onto that character and how the artist believes that society should perceive that character? Is it that the human-like virtual characters are constrained by technical limitations, or is it the creators that are holding the virtual characters back due to our own fears and the need to control? That may be why Seeff can capture images that are ‘alive’, authentic  and have genuine feeling as opposed to dead, artificial characters.

As you can see from my feedback above, the podcast has raised many questions and thoughts as to how the artist may be responsible for the Uncanny Valley rather than limitations in technology. In other words technology, no matter how accurate, may only take us so far. Possibly, we need artists willing to be brave and scared at the same time to unravel what lies behind another’s sole to traverse the valley.

To listen to the original podcast, click here:

CG Garage podcast # 46 | Norman Seeff

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