August 28, 2013
Robotics Companies Realize That Sex Sells
Despite the sci-fi portrayal of robots as companions, lovers and possibly enemies, robotics companies have historically aimed to produce robots with more practical uses. Not surprisingly, the primary market for robotics is the military, and this is followed by healthcare and manufacturing.
But as robotic technology develops, robots are becoming so sleek and sexy that they are beginning to appeal to our more visceral side. The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan has developed an impressive pop star robot named HRP-4C (obviously robot names haven’t developed with the technology yet), a hottie in a short skirt who can sing and dance at the same time, sticking to the same routines as her human backing singers. In truth, she looks more like me dancing than a real life diva — a bit awkward and wooden with stiff movements that make for an unconfident appearance. But still, HRP-4C is a good step in the direction of lifelike robots.
In the US too, robotics companies are looking at new options for how their robots could be used (and sold). The New Jersey based TrueCompanion and founder David Hines have spotted an obvious direction to take if you want to get attention and money — sex. Sex aids have always had a successful market, so a super advanced one should be no different. That’s why TrueCompanion spent up to $1 million to develop Roxxxy, the sexy gynoid (a gynoid is a specifically female android). Roxxxy is 5 ft 7 inches tall (170cm), can change her hair colour and general appearance, and has lifelike skin (apparently).
Although no evidence has been presented that a single Roxxxy has yet been sold commercially to a lonely (or kinky) man, Hines was reported on the BBC as saying that there is one area of robot marketing that is “is gaining more and more momentum, which is the sex industry’’. He also said that these were ‘’exciting times’’ since a more advanced version of Roxxxy is planned for later this year. “We are getting closer and closer. The gap between what is robotic and mechanical and what’s human-like will minimize.”
Maybe Hines is waiting until the perfect Roxxxy has been created before flooding the market and giving men the companionship he wishes Roxxxy to offer them, as well as meeting their physical needs (both of these needs can be met for women too with the male version, Rocky).
Some commentators are skeptical about whether robots which move towards replacing real humans is a healthy idea, even if some people struggle to interact all that successfully with other humans, especially romantically. Love/sex robots also raise the question of why people really get into relationships in the first place, other than the obvious, basic need for sexual desire to be fulfilled.
One of the major reasons is, of course, to ultimately have children, and a relationship with a robot isn’t able to provide that… yet. It’s a terrifying prospect that it might, but one we may have to face in future. Another reason for some people is the kudos; the bragging rights of being able to say you won the affection of an attractive or otherwise desirable partner (or indeed a free thinking partner at all, in some cases). Again, this wouldn’t apply to robots, unless they come with some sort of hard-to-get function built in, but that would kind of defeat the object.
However, if the current state of robotics tells us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t rule anything out.
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com