‘Uncanny Valley’ Explores a Dystopian Vision of Virtual Reality and Drone Warfare

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A new short film from Federico Heller explores a well travelled dystopian sci-fi narrative territory—addiction to future technologies, war and murder’s gamification, a lone male protagonist’s sudden epiphany regarding a virtual reality’s illusion—in a brightly polished vehicle.

Aside from interviews with “VR junkies” who prefer living and playing in the virtual to interacting with humans and Earth in the real, and who voice this preference plainly and unreservedly, Uncanny Valley boasts impressively rendered VR combat in a post-apocalyptic or otherworldly setting. Think somewhere between Bungie’s Destiny and X-Men: Days of Future Past, or watch the video and formulate your own cross.

Many of you reading this will probably be familiar with the term ‘Uncanny Valley’, but for those that aren’t here’s Google’s current definition:

Used in reference to the phenomenon whereby a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it.

In this short film, Heller alters the traditional current of unease evoked by technologies that descend into the uncanny valley. It is not the virtual’s approximation of the real that disturbs, but the virtual’s masking of and substitution for the real.

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So as to avoid SPOILERS, do not read the following unless you have viewed the film, have already figured out what it’s likely really about, or do not care about being SPOILED.

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The so-called “VR junkies” unknowingly pilot bipedal androids in desert combat zones and kill not aliens or monsters, but human beings. Making claims about the pertinence or importance of such future forecasting for VR is impractical; if you’re looking for a message, a relevant connection might be drawn between the combat practices of the deluded android pilots in the film and the profoundly impersonal killing of foreign targets, and those who happen to be near foreign targets (or really, near a phone they may use) by drone pilots in contemporary life.

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3dar, the Argentine production company and film-maker collective behind the project, has released numerous animated and commercial shorts in recent years, including the award winning Shave It, which follows a monkey’s ascent (or descent, as it were) into the world of human business and politics.

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The success of the short has cued interest in a feature length, multimedia production, according to Deadline. Look for that, along with more short and long form content, from Heller and 3dar in the future.

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