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Crossing the Uncanny Valley using Procedural Character AI

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, April 01, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The Uncanny Valley [Mori] is a term used to describe the challenge of creating human like avatars. Originally applied to robotics, it is a term now commonly applied to computer generated characters. While modern Movies and Video Games offer highly detailed characters there are still challenges in reaching true realism, i.e. where a computer generated character passes a ‘Turing Test’ of realism. One of the reasons this challenge still exists is that creating realism is still largely an artistic task, and as humans it is difficult to capture and reproduce all the subtle nuances that make people human -from small muscle twitches to the subtle way a person may smile.

In this project we will attempt to learn these subtle variations in humans and use AI to procedurally generate these – taking the task of reproducing these idiosyncracies from the hands of the artist. Our ultimate aim is to create facial animations indistinguishable from real humans. The project will build from motion capture and analysis technologies available at CAMERA ( In carrying out this project, we will explore the use of neural networks to create highly realistic videos, i.e. Deep Fakes. As well as developing new AI approaches to create realistic characters, we will therefore also touch on the ethical use of such technologies.

This project is associated with the UKRI CDT in Accountable, Responsible and Transparent AI (ART-AI), which is looking for its first cohort of at least 10 students to start in September 2019. Students will be fully funded for 4 years (stipend, UK/EU tuition fees and research support budget). Further details can be found at:

Desirable qualities in candidates include intellectual curiosity, a strong background in maths and programming experience.

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or good Upper Second Class Honours degree. A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.

Informal enquiries about the project should be directed to Prof Darren Cosker: .

Enquiries about the application process should be sent to .

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Computer Science:

Start date: 23 September 2019.

Funding Notes

ART-AI CDT studentships are available on a competition basis for UK and EU students for up to 4 years. Funding will cover UK/EU tuition fees as well as providing maintenance at the UKRI doctoral stipend rate (£15,009 per annum for 2019/20) and a training support fee of £1,000 per annum.

We also welcome all-year-round applications from self-funded candidates and candidates who can source their own funding.


[Mori] Mori, M. (2012). Translated by MacDorman, K. F.; Kageki, Norri. "The uncanny valley". IEEE Robotics and Automation. 19 (2): 98–100

How good is research at University of Bath in Computer Science and Informatics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.00

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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