Definition of uncanny valley in US English:

uncanny valley


  • 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.

    ‘anyone attempting to build a believable human facsimile also has to beware of the uncanny valley’
    • ‘There are no moments of physics-defying action or characters who reside in the uncanny valley.’
    • ‘We've all experienced the "uncanny valley" that makes it difficult to watch robotic or avatarial replicas of human beings without feeling creeped out.’
    • ‘A similar psychological dissonance might color your opinion of "Gene(sis)," a traveling exhibit of genetics-themed artworks now at the Weisman that doubles as a disquieting stroll through an uncanny valley.’
    • ‘In a way, the uncanny valley starts to pose a problem too.’
    • ‘The Spine leaps boldly across the uncanny valley by employing a style that Landreth calls "psychorealism," wherein characters' inner lives become externalized through exaggerated physical characteristics.’
    • ‘That said, some roboticists are striving to 'bridge the uncanny valley,' working on ever-more sophisticated humanoid faces (as detailed in this recent Popular Science article, The Man who Mistook his Girlfriend for a Robot).’
    • ‘The uncanny valley also exists, I think, when it comes to viewing artistic renderings of a future paradise.’
    • ‘Luckily, a number of practical and technological advances are allowing developers to span the Uncanny Valley in video games.’
    • ‘The technical accomplishments of Avatar were seriously amazing (leaping over the uncanny valley with ease, legitimizing three dimensionality, for instance), and it really is this generation's Star Wars, terrible PCness and all.’
    • ‘Beautifully scripted interactions between characters, enhanced by massive advances in facial mapping, has created the possibility of something heading for the other side of the Uncanny Valley.’
    • ‘I'm not sure if Emily has quite crossed the uncanny valley.’
    • ‘The characters in Spielberg's film possess a vitality and expressiveness that signal the much-maligned "uncanny valley" could soon be a thing of the past.’
    • ‘The closer we get to realism, the deeper the Uncanny Valley maws.’
    • ‘Characters who don't move their arms when they talk look fine when everything is all pixellated and indistinct, but when the image is stylised and crisp, it falls into the uncanny valley a tiny bit.’


1970s: from a translation of Japanese bukimi no tani, coined by the roboticist Masahiro Moti, who created 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.