Mr. Perlman is now putting the finishing touches on Contour, a futuristic camera system that will add photorealistic three-dimensional effects to digital entertainment. Standard motion-capture systems are generally limited in resolution to several hundred points on a human face, while the Contour system can recreate facial images at a resolution of 200,000 pixels. The digital video images produced by the system are startlingly realistic.
an important hurdle to commercial success for the Contour system is whether it will be the first low-cost technology to cross what film and robot specialists refer to as the “uncanny valley.”
That phrase was coined in the 1970’s by Masahiro Mori, the Japanese robotics specialist, as he sought to describe the emotional response of humans to robots and other nonhuman entities. He theorized that as a robot became more lifelike, the emotional response of humans became increasingly positive and empathetic — until a certain point at which the robot took on a zombie-like quality, and the human response turned to repulsion. Then, as the robot becomes indistinguishable from a human, the response turns positive again. Critics were quick to point out the eerie look of the characters in “Polar Express.”