Why would anyone get a robot like a humanoid or android? We continue this article (Part 1) with the possible reasons to answer that question:
(Cover image via Wired)
During its inception, the Internet was lauded as a means of promoting greater connectivity helping to break through the social isolation brought on by the pressures of fast-paced modern living. The weakening of traditional social, cultural and family ties could be replaced with vibrant online communities and communication with people from all over the globe in a truly boundless network, where no-one would ever be alone.
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It also means that living, studying and travelling overseas is no longer such a traumatic experience. The Internet is perfect for maintaining long distance relationships with loved ones who’ve moved far away. On top of that, it is now the norm for people who have never met except online to engage in internet or online relationships that can even lead to marriage.
Imagine if one could somehow bridge the space and distance not only with words, but with sensations such as voice, sight, sound and even touch. The first three is already popular with social media, videos and webcams allowing two lovers separated by thousands of miles to flirt face-to-face across different time zones, as long their bandwidth holds. But the sense of touch has so far proved elusive. It doesn’t mean for want of trying.
Durex Fundawear is specially designed underwear that can be worn and allows someone to transmit a vibratory sensation mimicking a touch to the wearer from a different location.
(Image via Bettina Arndt)
Several companies have already attempted to fill the void and create a product that will somehow bridge the tactile gap between two people communicating through the screen. Durex, for example, came up with the Fundawear, which is specially designed underwear that can be worn and allows someone to transmit a vibratory sensation mimicking a touch to the wearer from a different location.
With androids, it is possible to have a wholly synthetic stand-in in place in lieu of the actual person. They can be customized and made to order to appear as one’s wife, lover or even mistress. It is likely that in the near future, by adapting motion capture technology and combining it with animatronics, we may someday get seamless integration between the response’s and reactions of the simulacrum and the original person who may be ten thousand miles away. Here, the partner can engage in physical contact and enhance the emotional connection with their partner vicariously through the android.
Or the other way around, where the android is connected via the Internet to the other person wearing a full sensor body suit who is located elsewhere. Every time the android is touched, it sends a signal to the corresponding area on the body suit and it reacts accordingly, so the wearer feels as if they had been touched. Better yet, a combination of the two where both individuals can touch the other despite not even being in the same room or continent.
It’s an exciting possibility, but there are also a host of issues that can arise. Chiefly, what happens when someone hacks into the connection and engages in long distance molestation – either through the android or the body suit (similarly, if someone were to hack into the Durex Fundawear – are they guilty of molestation?).
And what about rape? Can rape legally take place if the perpetrator and the victim are miles apart (perhaps in another country) and there was no actual physical contact? Crimes like assault and sexual offences may have to be redefined to take into account the separation between the actual harm and the doer. Not to mention issues on child molestation and online grooming that could take on a whole new level of urgency with vicarious fondling now a possibility.
In Japan there is a growing generation of young men who have remained cooped up in their rooms, turning into virtual recluses. They virtually cut themselves off from any form of social contact. Often, by spending every waking hour playing games, surfing the net, reading comics or sleeping. The phenomenon is referred to as hikkokomori or ‘pulling inward’.
The triggers seem to be lack of career prospects especially with Japan being in decades old stagflation and economic stagnation. This in turn means that young Japanese men find it more difficult to get a good university, which in turn affects their chances of getting good and stable jobs so as to be able to marry and raise a family. Originally believed to be a culturally specific social condition, researchers have noted that it is also occurring among the some sections of the male population in Europe and the United States.
Not surprisingly, it’s no coincidence that Japanese tech firms have been at the forefront of developments in the field of artificial companion dolls and androids. These have included, but are not limited to robot dogs, since dogs are a man’s best friend. Remember the AIBO from Sony and other variants such as the iDog from Sega and the Genibo from Korea? They wag and bark just like regular pooches. Unlike the real thing these, little guys don’t leave smelly gifts on the carpet, or bite the hand that feeds them either. Of course none of them have any fur, or warmth, or that delicious tingling feeling when a real dog licks your face showing its affection. Still, these are small steps.
EMA (Eternal Maiden Actualization), Sega’s version of a personal robot girlfriend
(Images via Amazon and Dalje)
Recently, Sega, which used to be better known as a game and console producer, came up with their own version of a robot girlfriend. Known as the EMA (Eternal Maiden Actualization), this pint sized fem-bot is specifically targeted at lonely (single) Japanese men. Although only 15 inches in height, it’s programmed to sing, dance and entertain any dour faced male recluse. EMA can even hand out business cards and use a hip swaying walk. If one is itching for a bit of l’amour, there’s a love mode that can be switched on. This activates the programming where EMA uses its sensors to detect and kiss any heads (I mean, faces) in proximity. Though these efforts appear aesthetically blocky and the AI rather basic, the technology is there and getting better for the eventuality of life-like artificial companions being with us in the foreseeable future.
This should help those who might have trouble socializing with people or are just suffering psychological loneliness or some sort of connection. But although the thinking behind creating automated companions is rather noble (other than making money that is), this sort of approach may cause it to worsen.
Folks suffering from web addictions such as cyber relational addiction (messageboards and chatrooms), or cybersexual addiction (Internet pornography) along with low socialization skills, and low self-confidence could simply transfer their obsession onto the android companion. Instead of going out meeting people or gaining the self-confidence to look for a job or try new things, they’ll be even more cooped up in their rooms, cossetting their artificial companions.
Automated Pleasure Dolls
To the adult entertainment industry this is the Holy Grail and the ultimate fantasy. Pornography has its uses, but it can only go so far, but to have a synthetic yet fully realistic robot that can engage, initiate and respond to sexual overtures as well as any living person would represent likely the greatest single achievement in human history since the wheel. And before one thinks this is just a bizarre kink that afflicts a few, a recent survey done by the Huffington Post and YouGov found that one in ten Americans would have sex with a robot.
(Image via Huff Post)
For years, many companies have tried to come up with their own attempts at synthetic sex people. From simple blow up dolls to clunky servos and wired machines for the bedroom, to anatomically correct sex bots steady though at times amateurish progress is being made in the adult industry. Much of the real innovation and sophistication is being done outside in research labs and R&D departments of major corporations as noted earlier. Eventually however, the high-brow technology will slowly filter through the rest as it is replaced by better models and that’s when they will be incorporated into the next generation sex bots. For example the University of Electro-Communications developer Nobuhiro Takahashi showcased a new robotic butt that not only responds to “slaps, caresses, and finger pokes” but also moves, undulates and twitches just like the real thing. His goal may have been to highlight robotic technology, but for Pleasure Bot enthusiasts, it’s gotten them one step closer to the fantasy.
These are amazing innovations and possibly tempting alternatives for some. But the big question is “Why should you get one?”
5 – Copy
(Image via Film Gab with Werth and Wise)
Depending on the type of society you live in, sophisticated Ero-Bots could be widespread or be banned. In Malaysia they will probably fall under the same rule that prohibits dildos, vibrators and other assorted sex equipment from being sold openly or even being imported in. Which would be a damn shame, because other than the lurid factor; bringing Ero-bots into the country might even spark a healthy debate about reproductive and rights issues that for too long have had to kowtow to religious and conservative pressure.
Whilst in more permissive societies the question that will immediately arise will be how these Pleasure or Ero-Bots should be regulated. In terms of child models (not just Pleasure Bots, but any kind of android) would they be banned the same way some countries ban drawings of underage sex acts? Also in certain countries such as the UK, sado-masochism (SM) videos are prohibited even when done by consenting adults or for a couple’s private enjoyment. Does this mean certain acts cannot be done with Pleasure Bots as well?
What if someone bought a child model designed to provide companionship for those without children, and modifies it to be a Pleasure Bot? If these are merely products then the owner can do with them whatever they see fit – including for example modifying them to look like a minor or engaging in hardcore acts.
(Image via Cnet)
The argument from the other side will be that there will always be people with strange, weird and near illegal sexual fetishes and inclinations. Pleasure Bots can act as a safety valve so they don’t unleash them on others or prey on the rest of us. They can also be used to take over prostitution making it a safe, legal and thus taxable industry. Increase sexual health for the men, ensure safety of women and children from sexual exploitation and also generate revenue streams for the economy.
The counter to that is by making them legal and available are we promoting these fetishistic tendencies. Instead of being safety valve, some individuals may find their deviant obsessions exacerbated to the point they no longer find artificial substitutes adequate and may go after the real thing.