Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 11th 2016 Contents B28
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, February 11, 2016
The movie Ex Machina explores the relationship that can form between human
and artifical intelligence.
Continues on Page B29
In two recent movies, Her and Ex Machina, film-
makers explored an intriguing concept: whether
humans will fall in love with and want to have sex
with AI or robots. Of course, this isn t the first
time people have lusted after artificial human enti-
ties---you can find that story all the way back to
the Greek myth of Pygmalion. But as AI and robotics
get more and more advanced, some have claimed
that robots designed for love and sex are finally
close to reality. In his book Love and Sex with
Robots, for instance, David Levy estimated that
marrying robots will be normalised by 2050.
Yet while it might sometimes seem like we re
on the cusp of a new sexual revolution, the truth
is more complicated. Building and designing robots
for sex is going to be harder than most people
realise, making them convincing without being
creepy will be a huge hurdle, and overcoming the
barriers the sex industry faces for funding will be
The idea that a company might come along any
day now and make an affordable and convincing
sex robot ignores the reality of both research and
Before exploring why, however, let s be more
specific about what makes something a sex robot.
Technically it could be anything robotic that you
can have sex with. Those devices already exist in
the form of sex toys connected to apps that simulate
real sensations, for example, or programmable,
remote-controlled vibrators. "There are lots of
things available right now that are anatomically
reminiscent of a human, and facilitate a fantasy
experience that is more hands-on than pornography,
and more easily controlled than sex with a partner,"
says Shelly Ronen, a researcher at NYU who studies
relationships, sex, and sex toys.
Some of these toys have had success, and some
have failed to be marketable. In 2009, a device
called the RealTouch hit the market---a device for
men that connected to pornography videos and
simulated the sensations felt by the actor on the
screen in real-time. The experience was quite real-
istic, according to a review on the technology news
website Gizmag. But for all its realism, the Real-
Touch never found a market, and after a patent
infringement lawsuit, in 2013 they stopped sales.
However, most of these devices are sex toys, not
robots. What people tend to mean when they talk
about sex robots, is robots that take a humanoid
form, constructed with the capacity for sexual
activity, which have some kind of artificial intel-
ligence allowing them to "think" rather than simply
react to sensors.
At the moment, the closest thing to a full
humanoid robot is a sex doll sold by companies
like the California based company Abyss Creations.
Abyss makes and sells something called a Real Doll,
a line of realistic human figures which can be fine-
tuned with various custom features (right down
to freckles on the skin) and "personalities."
Real Dolls have a dedicated fanbase, many of
whom connect with one another to bond over the
various aspects of a still-unusual relationship.
There is even a small group of "doll doctors" who
travel around to fix broken Real Dolls. But they re
still extremely expensive---each one will run you
anywhere from US$5,000 to US$10,000 depending
on which custom features you opt for. And Real
Dolls are dolls, they re not convincing partners,
and they re not sex robots. At least, not yet.
A true sex robot might track the user s eyes to
see where they re looking, respond to a user s facial
expressions, and predict or even initiate actions
the user enjoys. It would learn the positions and
pressure its user enjoys most, ask and respond to
questions during the act, and perform the kind of
emotional work that sexual partners do.
Sex robots---not dolls, not devices---are a far more
complicated prospect. "Sex robots are going to
require multiple disciplines to come together, from
nanotechnology to replicate non-uniform textures
of skin, to an AI complete with natural language
understanding," says AV Flox a journalist who
covers the intersection of sex, law and technology.
Making a sex robot that really satisfies will require
a lot of technical engineering, starting from the
skin and going all the way down to the hinges,
battery life, and processors inside.
First, they ll have to make something that stands
up. Right now, the sex dolls and other humanoid
forms are heavy (Real Dolls can weigh up to 47kg
(105lbs) pounds) and can t support their own weight.
A sex robot will have to be able to not only stand,
The truth about sex robots
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