SEX robots that speak, make eye contact and respond to human touch are now a reality. But experts warn there’s a sinister side that will “change humanity forever”.
SEX robots are on the rise, whether we agree with the premise or not.
These blank-faced but eerily lifelike humanoids already exist solely for human gratification, and they’re only getting more sophisticated.
The robots can engage in dirty talk, respond to human touch, and simulate sexual acts.
But what are the sexual ethics involved? Is having sex with an artificial intelligence doll a form of rape? If not, can living out the fantasy encourage rape in real life? And what about robots made to look like children?
These are some of the issues explored in a new BBC3 documentary, Sex Robots and Us, in which James Young — a 28-year-old amputee with an artificial limb — investigates an industry that’s already booming in some parts of the world.
But these robots have a dark side — and some experts warn they could change humanity forever.
HOW DO THE ROBOTS WORK?
Sergei Santos, a sex robot designer from Barcelona, is trying to bring affordable AI sex dolls to the mainstream.
Together with his wife, Maritza, he creates lifelike sex robots in his home. Sergei focuses on coding the bot’s mind, while Maritza takes care of the sensors that bring it to life.
The couple’s most famous creation is “Samantha” — one of the world’s most advanced sex robots — which retails at £2500 ($AU4565).
By putting pressure on one of its erogenous zones — hips, breasts, mouth, crotch or hands — the user can arouse the robot, which will then moan and begin to engage in dirty talk, using software similar to the voice-activated systems in your smartphone, like Siri.
amantha also responds positively to human touch, with the ability to reach a simulated orgasm and detect when a male user is about to ejaculate.
“I’m outsourcing the manufacturing and the selling,” he tells Young. “In a factory I could easily do 200 a month.”
Neither his wife nor his mother are fazed by the dolls.
“It’s just part of my job now — it doesn’t impress me,” says Maritza. “I just hope the sensors work.”
As sex bots become more accessible and sophisticated, sellers are looking for new ways to make money off them.
Arran Squire, Sergei’s Liverpool-based business partner, even suggested stocking them in elderly people’s homes.
“Residents could have one in their room,” he suggests in an interview from his sex shop, where a doll is also stocked.
“It’s a possibility that they could share the dolls. They’re completely hygienic — everything is removable so it can all be cleaned.
“But I’m hoping that they could have their own Samantha. If people had a companion and a sex aid in a Samantha, that would take massive pressure off carers and nurses.
“I think people’s attitudes will improve towards it. I’m hoping so anyway.”
THE DARK SIDE OF SEX ROBOTS
For the most part, the robots may sound like a convenient — albeit costly — way for people to have sex. But experts warn they could “completely change humanity”.
Noel Sharkey, from the Foundation for Responsible Robotics, said: “We’re just doing all this stuff with machines because we can, and not really thinking how this could change humanity completely.
“Some people have suggested that sex robots create an attitude of ‘too-easy’ sex which is always available.”
He warned this could “take the meaning out of users’ lives” and “turn them into zombies”.