Opinion Onion – Uncanny Valley

This is a short series of articles where I talk about some things that I have noticed during my time researching various topic and themes. As the very nature of opinions involves them being wrong, expect many wrong assumptions and logic errors in these – but this is a learning exercise so feel free to roast me if I get anything wrong.

In this particular instance I would like to assume that Google Scholar is god (spoilers: it’s not… in fact it barely has any relevant articles on my topic areas but this will be discussed at some other point) and that it display the full work on any given field…

Looking at my look into the uncanny valley and the research papers that I discussed previously one key aspect seems missing – rendering. In too many instances researchers will have ‘stylized’ or ‘cartoony’ depictions of images, but those explanations are largely meaningless. This is because using a phong renderer will never give you a photorealistic looking character no matter what, this is because things like shadows are roughly approximated, global illumination is nonexistent and shaders that deal with roughness, gloss and subsurface scattering do not work in a realistic and dynamic manner.

Why is this important tho? – well this matters because having textures and details at 16k resolutions (that’s 4x higher than the highest in game textures (excluding mega textures)) is meaningless if you engine or renderer can’t display shadows accurately and show off the shape of the face. Other shaders that add a Fresnel effect can be added to quickly simulate the effect that micro hairs in the skin have, while an accurate global illumination model can add subsurface scattering (when light passes through your skin and it looks red around the edges) to you model and make it look like it’s not made from plastic but create a feeling of… substance behind the character.

So yah there it why this stuff is important and seemingly no “academic” articles have been written about it… aside from the million SIGGRAPH papers, but good luck finding a reliable source for those. My two cents is find a 10min YouTube video explaining these effects and build your skills from that 😉


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