AI-Generated SCDF Posters Spark Debate and Discomfort Among Commuters at Kent Ridge MRT Station
Fans of Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) Mr. Cardboard Policeman, beware; the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has introduced two fresh “faces” to the competition.
As of December 5, 2023, commuters at Kent Ridge MRT are greeted by two posters featuring computer-generated officers paired with the words “Lifesaving. It’s Life Changing. #ANationofLifesavers” emblazoned on the glass doors.
Sporting the SCDF uniform, these “officers” overlook the MRT platform with flawlessly smooth skin, perfect hair, and blank eyes that seem to stare into one’s soul.
What was seemingly meant to be a heartening celebration of our SCDF officers swiftly took a turn straight into an uncanny valley.
Or as Reddit user u/asparagustamer best puts it: “That’s no valley, there’s some goddam canyon.”
“Did They Produce these Using The Sims LOL”
The uncanny valley, according to the Oxford Dictionary, refers to a phenomenon where something “bears a close but imperfect resemblance to a human being” and evokes a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it.
(In other words, were you one of the unfortunate few who watched the 2019 movie Cats on the big screen? If so, do you remember that icky feeling you got when you saw Rebel Wilson’s musical number with the CGI cockroaches and mice with human faces? That is very likely the uncanny valley.) (And also, I’m sorry you had to see it.)
Despite well-meaning intentions, there is no denying that the image of SCDF’s two computer-generated officers deeply unnerved commuters.
Attaching photos of the posters alongside the caption “Anyone else also think these posters look slightly off and even creepy?”, u/Yejus quickly sparked a discussion between netizens who promptly delved into speculations about the origins of these enigmatic characters.
Some were harshly critical of the art, with a user stating that it looked like a model from 20 years ago and that it was “downright embarrassing.”
The user continued, “Any ape with Unreal or Unity tools on a free/student license can slap together a model that is substantially better than this.”
A comment critiqued that the characters look like “cheap AI,” to which another user responded that “Free (AI software) is better than this.”
Moreover, AI also has its limits in creating believable images, just ask this GrabFood customer who posted in the same subreddit about a restaurant that used AI to generate photos of food for their menu.
The original poster (OP) also wondered why the SCDF did not make use of cartoons or real-life photos, to which netizens also stepped in to offer their two cents on the matter.
“Every time a picturesque officer is featured in any publications, be it intentionally or unintentionally, confirm got tikopeks (perverted individuals) drooling and trying to find their socials” u/Eclipse-Mint pointed out.
To which, another user rebutted saying that this is a common issue faced by other publications in sports, media, or social media, so it should not be a valid excuse.
The aforementioned Mr Cardboard Policeman was cited as an example, as its introduction had the general public (and… certain unhinged individuals) wishing to find out about his real identity because of his good looks.
(At times like this, maybe we can turn to our ever-reliable Ask Jamie, the virtual assistant across 70 government websites that has been helping to address inquiries online without having the user phone a hotline, to become the face of SCDF instead.
Unfortunately for her, she is gradually being phased out to make way for the Virtual Intelligent Chat Assistant project, which aims to shift all chatbots across government websites to large language model (LLM) engines by the end of 2023.)
Characters are Part of SCDF’s Newest Recruitment Scheme
We’ve asked why the uncanny characters, but we have not addressed what they are used for. When we delve into the reasons behind their existence, it may clear the air of any confusion or negative buzz.
If the QR code at the bottom of the posters is scanned, one would be directed to SCDF’s newly-launched recruitment microsite with interactive elements and digitalized avatars to allow users to learn about SCDF’s career paths and growth opportunities.
SCDF states on their Instagram page, “The site aims to provide users with a deeper understanding of our mission, values, and the life-changing career opportunities they will be exposed to.”
While the marketing was definitely on-brand, (since after all, they are mascots for a microsite that offers users a virtual experience), it is unfortunate that it managed to send chills down Singaporeans’ spines.
But you know what they always say, “Any publicity is good publicity.”
And if said publicity is ultimately successful in increasing the number of lifesaving officers in SCDF at the end of the day, that’s still a win in my book.
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