Uncanny Valley

At a coffee shop the other day, I noticed some paintings of humans that were… just a little off. Not enough to look like an intentional abstract portrait. No–they were trying to be photo realistic, but missing the mark in an eerily, creepy way.

I mentioned this to Lydia and she exclaimed:

They’re in the uncanny valley!

Seriously. How great are these words?! I can’t describe how much I gushed about it, but there may have been a small dance performed in honor of this phrase. Here’s what it really means (according to Google):

un·can·ny val·ley

  1. 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”


    I know it’s meant to refer to robots and artificial intelligence, but no matter. I love this term so much I will now use it liberally to describe awkward behavior. I’m no stranger to awkward or weird. We all have our moments, right?

    But if we say, “Huzzah! I just went to the uncanny valley!” then that makes our raw, silly, awkward, human moments feel like a fun adventure.

    You in?

    This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

    Prompt: “Get Wordy. What word(s) did you learn OR make-up this year? How did you learn it/make it up? Did you start using it?” from #ThinkKit13

  • MaryLou Robinson

    New phrase for me as well.