The Uncanny Valley and Nonverbal Communication in Virtual Characters

Angela Tinwell, Mark Nicholas Grimshaw, Debbie Abdel Nabi

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


This chapter provides an overview of a current research project investigating
the Uncanny Valley phenomenon in realistic, human-like virtual characters.
!e research methods used in this Work include a retrospective of both empirical
studies and philosophical writings on the Uncanny.

No other research has explored the notion that realistic, human-like,
virtual characters are regarded less favorably due to a perceived diminished
degree of responsiveness in facial expression, specifically, nonverbal
communication (NVC) in the upper face region. So far, this research project has
provided the first empirical evidence to test the Uncanny Valley phenomenon
in the domain of animated video game characters with speech, as opposed to
just still, unresponsive images, as used in previous studies. Based on the results
of these experiments, a conceptual framework of the Uncanny Valley in
virtual characters has been authored to allow developers to design either for or
against the uncanny for antipathetic or empathetic-type characters.

This research is relevant to embodied conversational agents used in a wider
context such as therapeutic and e-learning applications and has an
outreach to the disciplines of psychology, social psychology, game
studies, animation and graphics, and human computer interaction.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNon Verbal Communication in Virtual Worlds : Understanding and Designing Expressive Characters
EditorsJ. Tanenbaum, M. Seif el-Nasr, M. Nixon
Number of pages17
PublisherCarnegie Mellon University Press
Publication date2014
ISBN (Print)978-1-304-81204-9
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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