Augmentology"...is a concise manual of reality for our digital age."

Mark Hancock,_Augmentology: Interfaccia Tra Due Mondi_

[Sponsored by The Ars Virtua Foundation/CADRE Laboratory for New Media]

_Uncanny Valley_ is a term used to describe negative reactions to any artificial human form that approaches the realistic. Doctor Masahiro Mori described The Uncanny Vally Effect as a result of testing:

“…people’s emotional responses to a wide variety of robots, from non-humanoid to completely humanoid. He found that the human tendency to empathize with machines increases as the robot becomes more human. But at a certain point, when the robot becomes too human, the emotional sympathy abruptly ceases, and revulsion takes its place. People began to notice not the charmingly human characteristics of the robot but the creepy zombielike differences”.

The Uncanny Valley Effect continues beyond mechanically-produced humanoid representations to the synthetic. In 2005, Mori revised his theory by adding a category that includes an artistic expression of human modelling and “something more attractive and amiable than human beings”.

Uncanny Valley Revisions. Graph modification by MOR: religionandtechnology.com


In synthetic environments, humanesque avatar adoption illustrates just how the Uncanny Valley Effect diffuses in line with Mori’s revised principle. In-world participants [both game oriented and otherwise] display comprehensive identity projection in order to achieve workable immersion. This projection promotes the adoption of synthetic character “skins” as extensions of consciousness, rather than presenting as externalised automatons. Players then view their avatars as an Ego [in the Freudian sense] elongation as opposed to a humanoid mirror.

Humanoid avatars may also fall into an _ultrahuman_ perceptual category as shown through the example of _Emily_:

Emily operates as an amalgam of a geophysical and synthetically rendered entity: her face is mapped to that of her human counterpart, a live actor also named Emily. The resulting augmentation accelerates beyond the Uncanny Valley dip [as seen in the graph above] via minuscule asymmetries that aren’t scaled high enough to break the beauty-symmetry barrier. Her face is unlined, unmarked, yet still convincing as a heightened variation of a “real” actor. Emily embodies the concept of the digitized _Übermensch_; an iconic mix of synthetic + geopresenced perfection.

Emily\'s Facial Scans

Could the technology used to produce Emily extend to the creation of augmented identity “sets” where tailor-made avatars are worn according to contexts/moods? Could the future of the cosmetics industry involve the mass production of illusionary facial constructs applied as easily as make-up [think: a mixture of a holographic caul and synthetic rendering]?