Strawberry has been a Second Life Resident since 2007 and a Linden Lab employee since 2019.

19 thoughts on “Uncanny Valley

  • Samantha Ansar-Buscaylet

    Hi Strawberry! I was wondering where to find Glam Affair appliers for heads like Logo and Catwa?

  • Kerena Zhangsun

    Both images of you are lovely, Berry. I do have a mesh head I use for photos, specifically get get a better quality ‘closed eye’ look. If or when there’s a mesh head that allows customization via sliders for the eyes, nose, mouth, chin, forehead… those areas were our faces can be truly made unique, I would consider wearing one full time with my mesh body. Now though, even though they are all so lovely, and the options are growing by leaps and bounds, you can still tell a Logo from a Catwa and a LeLutka from a Genesis, etc. Our faces are what make us so unique in appearance, or so it has always been for me. I have the hope and look forward to the day a mesh head will appear that allows customization as we are now able to do with our default avatar.

  • I’ve never heard of that expression before… but for me, if anything, what was – at first – off putting about some mesh heads was they were too perfect to look real. That and, of course, I didn’t want to give up my unique face.

    But as more and more heads came out, with more and more applier options and facial expressions, I began to realize that it’s not quite what I thought. I wound up buying one. Then another. And then one of my skins had default AND mesh head applier versions. Suddenly, I saw very clearly how much crisper the mesh heads are… and I realized I was kind of hooked.

    I enjoy the facial expressions a lot for blogging, and I love how there is no bumpy, jagged edges, as you said. But, there are sacrifices because while I have found some appliers that make the mesh heads feel very “me,” I can’t tweak the lips or eyes.

    Particularly on the LeLutka head I bought – which is stunning – I wish I could make the eyes bigger. I tend to prefer bigger eyes. I hope down the road they do one that has bigger eyes, since that’s not something the sliders can control on mesh.

    So, I agree with you… there’s a certain amount of sacrificing the “you” that you worked so hard on for so long to create. But then there’s the beauty of the mesh heads and the appliers on them, not to mention the smooth expressions. And it comes down to what matters more to us each as individuals.

  • I’m having this exact same struggle right now. Not so much the uncanny valley thing, but the being “me” thing. I’ve just recently started experimenting with a mesh head and while it is gorgeous in all ways, I’m not sure it’s “me”.

    I feel more uncanny valley with the skins a few years ago photosourced from celebs, you remember the Rihanna and Angelina Jolie skins? That was downright creepy.

  • Wow, Berry, every single thing you said echoed my own feelings about mesh heads…really, *every* single thing. I also love the perfection and the look of the mesh heads, truly, I do…and yet, as you also say, somehow you feel a part of the “real sl you” is lost inside of them, and that a more honest version of you exists with the system heads. I totally get that. It’s kind of like a tug-of-war between our desire for perfection and our desire for individuality. Right now, my desire for perfection seems to be predominant…and I am mourning some of my gorgeous, adorable system skins that said so much about who I am here….HOWEVER, as these mesh heads become more and more advanced, I am more and more pleased with how I look…I add my own makeup, hair, *expressions* (when applicable), my own shape (as do we all), and somehow, I do think I still look like “me” as more options become available with these heads. In fact, I’ve become quite the head hunter of late and have a truckload of different creators’ heads now…so then, who am I? I’m still me, the typist, behind them all, and hopefully, most people will know me by my crazy personality… For now, I think I’m content with that…

  • Mesh heads are becoming more commonplace, and they are getting better and better. I particularly like the Logo Alex head and the Catwa heads because they do look unique with different skins applied. I prefer the Catwa heads in particular, because it’s so easy to customize different make up options. You can wear one skin, then wear the brows or lips from a completely different skin. Or if you feel like creating your own, they have a free kit in the store so you can make your own makeup, brows, lashes, lips, etc. I don’t think it’s the ultra realism that turns people off from mesh heads, it’s the limited options. But there are some brilliant, talented creators out there so we will see an ever-increasing number of mesh head offerings.

  • Aida Lundquist

    Hi Berry,
    Interesting point. But an unfair comparison. Because in SL we dont wear a reworked version of the system head. So for comparison you should use two raw shots! I was much sceptic about mesh heads before but now it turned by 180 degrees. They look much better and realistic already when we ‘living’ in SL. And is what counts most for me. I often do pictures ofavatars in SL and then ask the owner if it’s allowed to publish them in Flickr. And I realised I do take pics more and more only about meshed avatars. We have a lot designers who make it possible to get a personality in mesh too. A big number of bodies, heads, skins and makeups give us the possibility to have a unique look. And I feel much better in mesh because nobody can soften the edges of the old system head to make it pretty while I’m in SL. I love (not only) my mesh heads!

    Keep on with your blog, I like it, Aida

  • Ren Toxx

    To me the “uncanny valley” effect is noticeable not so much with a whole avatar that might be more or less realistic, but when there are *differences* in realism in different parts of it. The best example I can think of are the so-called “morph” pics, where parts of SL imagery are grafted onto RL photos; never mind that most are downright ugly because they have glaring mismatches of angle, proportion or lighting: even when this isn’t the case, parts of it look wholly realistic because they *are* real, and then they put in SL phony-looking eyes, oversimplified eyebrows or cartoon lips, and you go “wtf?”.

    Our eyes –or, rather, our *perception*– can adapt pretty well to what it sees, as long as it doesn’t get “mixed signals”: if we see an RL scenery picture we think it’s OK… unless the author HDR’ed the living daylights (pun intended) out of it… then we see lights & shadows doing weird things and we go “wtf”. We can also look at wholly unrealistic images, say, from a “The Simpsons” episode, and we see nothing particularly wrong with it because *all* of it is like that, so our perception still adapts; but if the producers chose for example to draw the faces in a fully realistic style, or in Final Fantasy-like realistic 3D, or even grafted actual RL actors’ faces to them, again we’d go “wtf”.

    Back to SL, our perception forcibly adapts to different levels of realism; a few years ago it was far worse in this sense and yet most weren’t bothered by this, because the whole world was pretty much like that…. cartoonish, if you will; then more realistic skins and shapes and hairs came along, often available even to newbies, and so everything was a bit more realistic… but *evenly* so, and therefore still OK; now we have high-poly mesh heads and bodies and hands, even moving mesh hairs (*nods to Berry*), and again, better mesh avatars seep down even to the new residents’ selection, so the overall level of realism is still preserved.

    There is, of course, another level of “uncanniness” which isn’t so relative: when the subject is so close to reality, that we compare it not with the rest of what we see around, but with what we know *is* reality; but I think that SL products aren’t yet there, not by a long stretch, if anything else because, as others have commented, most tend to idealized standards of “beauty” that allows no flaws, much less overt ones. Things like pimples or warts, wrinkles so big that are more like folds, porosity (“pock-marked” skins), asymmetric features (eyes, noses), excess fat, etc., are exceedingly rare, a niche market actually. Which is intriguing, really, because when we see them, we exclaim, “how realistic!”… yet, by and large, we wouldn’t wear that ourselves. And so we tend to regard them more like an oddity, or an attempt by the creator or wearer to “stand out”, rather than simply an acknowledgement that reality is far from perfect.

    And let’s not forget that SL is an *animated* world, not a set of static pictures, so there’s a side problem: even if avatars were modelled to become indistinguishable from reality, they still wouldn’t *move* anywhere near realistically. Sure, now many mesh heads blink and smile, most AOs have over fifty mocap animations, boobs shake and eyes aren’t static; but all of this is still nowhere near actual, human movement and realistic body language, so even if the avatar looks real, it’ll still move like a cartoon, again contributing to the uncanny valley effect, be it the relative or the absolute one.

  • For me all that matters is how good an avatar can still be after crossing 20 sims in a row while sailing.
    And sadly most creators deny users the right to mod their avatars in order to make them the best possible efficient in world.
    Cause i don’t wear a body to take pictures and another to be in a event or sailing, i only use one for all, so i want that body, that hair, that face, those hands and feet, those makeups, to be the most optimized as possible, by letting me choose how may layers i do need to wear at a time, to create diff copies to different occasions and all that one can do if….. Mesh parts are modifiable by rezz and edit in world.

  • Willow

    They both are lovely but I prefer your SL default face. I prefer my defaul av face. It makes me feel more distinctive and feel like me. I sometimes feel mesh heads look alike on many people; there’s no uniqueness there. I guess that’s why I don’t wear one. I love the way I look without a mesh head, imperfections and all. 😉

  • Oh man, who knew me rambling on my blog whilst half asleep would result in some deep conversations. Thank you all for sharing your opinions. Mesh heads seem to really pull at the heart strings of a lot of people. I guess our faces, full of imperfections, do have an impact on who we are in this virtual world, in a way. I know I am definitely conflicted but I still enjoy them immensely. It is wonderful seeing all of the creativity from the talented SL designers. Let’s see what else they come up with in the future.

    Samantha Ansar-Buscaylet you can check both the Glam Affair mainstore and I believe she has one at the Shiny Shabby event right now. You can keep an eye on her flickr for future releases:

  • Meaghan

    I am in two minds about the mesh heads. I have demos in my inventory and occasionally pull them out and play with the mesh head demos.

    My avatar loses her beautiful face (I am not biased, almost 10 years in perfecting :p)when she wears the mesh head, is unrecognisable and she loses her personality. I would like and hope that one day we can fiddle with facial features.

    My skin maker only supports appliers for one or two heads at this stage in time and I am very reluctant to abandon the skin for the mesh head.

    I adore my mesh body so does my SL partner. I am in love with mesh bodies and love my mesh clothing.

    SO for now I am staying with the classic head, with the beautiful skin that I adore. I do not want her to be a Barbie doll.

  • Jadelyn McAuley

    This is an interesting conversation for me. I think my biggest issue with the mesh heads is the same issue everyone else is having: “It’s not like ME” I believe this is stemming from the fact we cannot modify the heads how we have been able to modify our system heads. We have all labored and tweaked, and customized our own faces to what we want them to look like, and the mesh heads strip that away from us. I believe a lot of those feelings will go away once they make a fitted head that can be tweaked and customized while keeping the same perfections. To me, the heads feels like a mask I am hiding behind. They are fun on the temporary, but not for every day use.

  • Katie

    Morph – That is what these heads appear as, morphed pictures. It truly is ‘uncanny valley’ for me and many of my friends and I find nothing unique about them. You ask if we see a difference in your shots and yes, there is a definite difference between your two shots, the only similarity I see is the shape of your avatars face – everything else is different, the nose, moth shape of the eye… The mesh head is very symmetrical and smooth and a bit unnerving, the default avatar faces have more life and tiny imperfections as we create our look that makes them unique and unlike any other. The few friends I have that have turned to mesh heads have done that out of pressure and they admit that. I have noticed in many of my groups, conversation that equates to avatar shaming from those who have moved to the mesh head and body. It’s ridiculous and guess what, those people are lagging out every day – It makes me laugh to hear them complain about their increase in lag and why can’t they see their heads or why their appliers aren’t working and why is this tattoo blurry! So ridiculous and unnecessary.
    Even with a high-end pc and graphics, these heads and bodies lag and most of the time appear to be floating up in the air and the heads, sometimes those appear as big as a house! Last thought, why are so many dissatisfied with their avatars face, especially when its one you have worn for years and why do you want to cover it with a mask?

  • Cristalle Karami

    That Alex head with that Sia skin applier is the closest thing to “you” I’ve seen yet. A tweak of the lips and maybe it’s close enough to wear every day and not feel like it’s not you! And when Max adds more Omega makeup layers, it’s going to be striking. But Catwa is leading the way, it seems… and that’s a good thing for us as consumers. We are getting more choices and it’s amazing how good we can look.

    I still don’t feel like “me” but I like what I see, so I continue to wear mesh heads, for myself and for roleplay characters. I’m still on the hunt for the perfect skin and head combo, but so far I’m happy with what I have, although it tempts me to pick up a Catwa head. I’m waiting a while longer. I have the Jessica and Annie demos, looking for the right skin applier to make me go over…. or a better skin applier for the Lelutka Karin I normally wear.

  • Marianne Little

    The LeLutka heads are also very versatile with mixing one skin with makeups from different creators. I think the upgrade with expressions for LeLutka is really nice done. Did you know that you can activate some expressions with a gesture? Type 🙂 in open chat and your head is smiling! It is 4 other gestures too, confused, smirk, sad, surprised. All is activated through typing. Plus that you can mix different eye and mouth expressions and change in the HUD without using chat commands. I think this is better than the option Catwa har to random trigger just one expression. It is like the old smilers, remember those? They are much better looking in a mesh head than the default face, that’s true. I think the “fault” with LeLutka heads is that they are so similar, the eyes and nose look identical even if the mouth and chin is a little bit different.The LeLutka heads is so “perfect” and that’s boring after a while. Speaking of me who has 2 LeLutka heads, Catwa, The Alex and Chloe from LOGO and other heads….I am really exited to see the developent in LOGO. TMP has quit updating totally. The Snow Rabbit head, maybe the best done mouth and smile in SL ever… I so wish they opted for Omega and more expressions.

  • Morgan Mickalobe

    Wonderful article and I love how you titled this blog after Masahiro Mori’s theory on “Uncanny Valley.”

  • Pingback: Uncanny Valley | ShenaniganS Music Cafe

  • They all look alike to me despite trying wide ranges of skins on them and every head out. I can never get my look. I’ve actually stopped playing SL since I got depressed over these mesh heads. I find it really depressing now because some makeups I like are just for those heads but but the facial features are so weird. I find it strange how 4 out 5 mmorpgs I play I can find a head in most that resembles me more than any of the mesh heads. The mesh heads have some strange chins or noses. The Catwa Jessica head would be perfect if it had sliders to keep the same nose but reduce the length. To space the eyes a bit further apart and the lips bug me. I’d probably widen the opening of the eyes too but definitely space them apart a bit. It is things like that, that come across my mind when I do have the heads on.

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