A new Chinese mobile app called MyIdol lets you design a miniature version of yourself to dance all over your friends' News Feeds — and it's horrifying.
The free app, made by Huanshi Ltd., is not in English, so it can be complicated to use. Once you've downloaded it and viewed a brief video (in Chinese), you take a selfie, upload it, grimace a little at the app's translation of your features, and begin modifying.
Here's our editor Cooper:
And what MyIdol turned him into:
You can change your Idol's gender by clicking a gray tab at the top of the clothes section. Then you choose clothing, hair, eye color, accessories and a bizarre collection of face-paint options.
Here's Cooper wearing a sweater that says "BLAZE." It comes with a cute skirt.
Then you make it dance and sing.
Building a character without knowing how to speak Chinese feels a lot like building furniture from a foreign manufacturer: There are pictures, but some of the finer points get lost in translation. It might take time to figure out how to download and share your new Idol.
From looking at the Twitter hashtag #MyIdol, it seems people of all nationalities are having a lot of fun dressing up their disturbingly accurate caricatures.
MyIdol has multiple dancing settings. If you tap the video logo, you can make your new avatar dance to a comprehensive list of popular songs. This can get weird.
The "uncanny valley" effect: A roboticist theorized in 1970 that when a robot looks too much like a human, it provokes a strong unfavorable reaction. It's why R2D2 seems cute, but Star Trek's Data is a little unsettling. The closer to human a robot looks, the more obvious and unsettling its robotic quirks become. The reality of its artificiality sets in and turns empathy into repulsion. The "valley" refers to the area between obviously robotic and fully human — and anything in the valley is too weird.
My own Idol is both majestic and frightening. Sorry, Mom: You won't be able to un-see this.
Do selfie apps make us more narcissistic? MyIdol says a lot about our tendency toward self-obsession. That urge to see tiny versions of ourselves is what made Bitmoji cartoons and "Selfies With Drake" such hits. We're both curious and repulsed when we see how other people view us. We want to be funny, we want to entertain, and we want the world to see how funny and entertaining we are. These MyIdol caricatures as a mockery of that impulse. And it's creepy as hell.