A New Uncanny Valley?

InigoMontoya

As VR and MR enter into the mainstream consciousness, people are starting to get familiar (or at least using) with terms that have been common in the 3D, VR, and animation fields for many years. In one way this is great to see. Language is the key to communication, and once we have a shared set of terms we can share and build on ideas faster and easier. In our world of saturated buzz phrase media though, there can be a disconnect when tech journalists start using a term in a different way than what has been the norm. I’m not opposed to evolution of language, but it’s also important to use consistent terms with established ideas.

The source that inspired me today is an interesting use of the term “uncanny valley”. I’m not going to call this out or reference the usage at this time because I don’t want to add to this new myth. I’ll send the author my comment and let them do as they will.

But to clarify, the uncanny valley isn’t a new idea that has just been created for virtual reality. The uncanny valley concept and term have been around for a long time, and applies to graphics, robotics, sound design, and many other disciplines. Wikipedia has a clear definition here, which is in line with the way the 3D, animation, and graphics industry I have worked in for the last 20 years has used it. Basically:

When features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some observers.

I am in no way a grammar purist, and I also have a tendency to make up and mash up new words to suit my needs or whims. I also applaud the use of words and language to bring a creative approach to concepts allowing for a fresh or extended perspective to further conversation. But once a term has a definition, stating that it means something totally different is a disservice to the community of participants and spectators.

I’m sure it is very difficult to keep up with the plethora of terms that are emerging from new technology these days, but I do believe that tech writers should learn and understand the language, and help new audiences learn as well.

PS. If I have used any terms above incorrectly, please comment and hammer me for it. I will probably respond that I did it for ironic impact and emphasis, but I still would appreciate the opportunity to learn.

Uncanny Valley from Wikipedia.

The New MacDock

This is the first step of what I want my smart phone to do. Is this too much to ask? It shouldn’t be too tough, and it shouldn’t be expensive either. iPhone would be great for this. The MacDock would simply make working with your phone easier when you are on a plane, at a client meeting, at lunch on your way to your next appointment. This is to make life on the road easier.

I see so many people at conferences with iPhones, taking notes on their netbooks. Put them together, and make it SEEMLESS. When the phone unplugs, everything stays with it.

  • The phone docks into a netbook size device, becoming the track pad.
  • As a fully functioning touch screen, the interface could be amazingly customized on the phone when functioning as a trackpad. Custom buttons, controls, anything.
  • All the main drive space is still on the phone (possibly with some type of backup drive on the MacDock, or maybe a cloud-based backup drive). All the things you do on the iPhone, you can do easier on the MacDock, just because it is bigger and has more power. It augments your phone.
  • Additional RAM.
  • Additional battery power that can charge up your phone as you use it.
  • Real keyboard
  • Bigger Screen
  • Full video conferencing capability
  • Working speaker phone
  • Optional speakers?
  • Application extension. If you have a twitter app on your phone, it expands and is easier to use on the MacDock. But when you have to run, all the data stays on the phone. Evernote would be a great app for this.
  • All photos/messages/emails/attachments/music/downloads from the phone can be off-loaded/backed up.
  • Better WiFi/cell signal reception. Better antenna? Cell phone booster?
  • Network hub capability. The MacDock could create a wireless network for an area through the cell phone connection. Would ATT be happy with this? Probably not.
  • Vehicle dock. A similar dock for a vehicle could use the phone to drive a flexible GPS system. Or even serve as a key. Plug in your phone and drive.  If not plugged in, a car could connect by Bluetooth. It wouldn’t charge your phone at this point, but would work similarly.

What else could it do? Remember, this is a tool to augment the phone, not a laptop. Let me know what you think.

Convenience Store WIP

Here are 2 shots of a 3D convenience store I am working on.

View from one of the security Cameras
View from one of the security Cameras
View from the Cashier
View from the Cashier

The plan is to shoot some video people to put into this scene when it is done. One view will be from the cashier’s perspective, interacting with a customer. We will green screen the human shots here.

Other views will be from security cameras showing a person entering the store, setting up the scene. I plan to shoot, garbage mat and do some other video trickery to composite the footage.

There are a lot of bottles, boxes, bags, and cans I have to make textures for. Thank gods for instances.