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Tom Wells

University of York

Available for placement

Tom has an interest in niche alternative and indie games which evoke strong emotions and are narratively immersive. He studied Experimental Psychology as an undergraduate in Oxford, specialising in conscious brightness perception in specific optical pigments. His Masters was in Computational Neuroscience, Cognition and AI from Nottingham, and focused on Computer Vision (specifically facial recognition) and Visual Attention. He enjoys heavy metal, strength sports and literature.

A description of Tom's research:

With the rise of digital art, Uncanny Valley has emerged from an esoteric robotics concept into an infectious memetic phenomenon, with specific memes such as 'Uncanny/Canny Mr. Incredible', or more generally uncanny faces being used as reaction images for humor. Critics and players will now refer to specific media being 'Uncanny' rather than using more general words as 'off-putting', demonstrating uncanniness cementing itself in the public consciousness as examples increasingly abound; ergo digital artists should be aware of evoking the uncanny even with modern rendering technology, as audiences become increasingly discerning of the Uncanny. This is most pertinent in videogames, where rendering is performed in real-time, meaning rendering constraints must be implemented. This potentially confines characters to the Uncanny Valley, as it may not be possible to increase graphical fidelity, thus artists may be left to either accept the uncanny or demaster their work (both undesirable options). This project aims to learn about the Uncanny Valley pertaining to modern skin rendering techniques, using artificial intelligence (specifically GANs) to directly map skin rendering parameters onto user assessments of uncanniness and realism. This can then be reverse engineered to provide automated tools for generatively rendering realistic non-uncanny skin, and predicting audience responses to skin realism, expediting QA testing. The primary experimental stage is to generate a face database with photorealistic skin to be assessed using psychometrics by participants. This is additionally one of few studies looking into the novel phenomena of training AI's to generate human-oriented psychologically salient content.




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