Sex Robots: AI, Marriage and the Dawn of a New Dating Era?

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Sex with robots is “around the corner” according to the ‘Love and Sex with Robots’ conference that took place at Goldsmiths University, London this week.

Academics, tech representatives and industry professionals met to debate the ethical implications of sex dolls, AI, law, marriage and relationships.

An audience member stated, “We can’t agree what a robot is, we can’t agree what sex is. We are almost sure that no sex robots currently exist. What we are developing is very crude and almost no-one wants it.”

However, as AI technology advances and online dating apps become more popular, are sex robots the next sexual frontier?

Realdoll: AI Sexbot for all Your Sexual Needs

Photo Credit: Lars and the real girl, 2007 film features Realdoll, left

RealDoll, founded by CEO Matt McMullen has developed a team from Hanson Robotics for his company Realbotix, animating dolls with AI, allowing them to follow commands and respond naturally.

McMullen aims for the dolls to achieve a balance “between the efficient functionality of it, the entertaining functionality of it, and making the thing work.”

The founder acknowledges the dolls are not for mass market but for those who cannot or don’t have the opportunity to have real life partners.

The dolls are life-size and have life-like features such as blinking and mouth functions. At present the RealDolls sell for $5,000-$10,000.

An app is also being developed that will connect to a robotic companion, where commands such as sex can be given.

RealDoll aims to create a cloud-based artificial intelligence system using an app, which will work as “a less PG version of Siri,” according to creator Matt McMullen.

This app will act as a Tamagotchi-like companion along with a VR headset, which will complement the doll.

The Development of Sex Tech

Photo Credit: Dazed, ‘The guy who made a freaky Scarlett Johansson robot’

David Levy, artificial intelligence expert and author of ‘Love and Sex with Robots’ said, “Sex with robots is just around the corner, with the first sexbots coming… some time next year.”

He added that people should entertain the idea of marriage with robots by 2050.

The conference showcased robotic sex toys and gadgets including “Kissenger,” a sensor that shows the pressure of a kiss, attached to a partners phone, sharing the kiss in real time.

Another gadget is “Teletongue” by students at Keio University, Tokyo, that uses “remote oral interaction” that sends licking sounds and sensations using a lollipop, for an immersive experience.

According to a Pew study in 2015, 72% of adults in the United States are active on online dating sites.

OkCupid data found out that 42% of its users would consider dating someone who is already involved in an open or poly relationship. Another 24% say they are “seriously interested” in-group sex.

Online dating becoming more mainstream combined with the greater possibility to experiment sexually, has allowed sex with dolls to become more socially acceptable than a decade ago.

Levy said, “As sex with robots becomes more and more commonplace… we shall come face to face with the very real possibility of marriage to robots.”

Sexbot-Human Relationships and the Law

Levy projected that human-robot marriage may only be just over 30 years from happening, which will cause laws to be implanted to consolidate relationship status.

“As more and more people come to accept the concepts of sex and love with robots, so societies will develop laws that govern human-robot relationships.”

In three decades he predicted that robots would develop to become, “patient, kind, subjective, loving, interesting, truthful, persevering, respectful, uncomplaining, pleasant to talk to and showing a sense of humor.”

“And the robots of the future will not be jealous, boastful, arrogant, rude, self-seeking or easily angered, unless of course you want them to be.”

Sexbot Relationships: Convenient for Busy People

At the London conference, researcher Oliver Bendel warned audiences that the danger of sexbot relationships is, “if the machine over-exerts the human, it reduces the possibility of human sex.”

If robots have the capability to satisfy humans more than other real life partners then there would be little reason for humans to procreate.

Sexbots, like online dating may provide a convenient substitute for busy people living in cities who experience stress and have limited time.

In a 2013 survey of 2,020 US adults by Harris Interactive for the American Psychological Association, 39 percent of millennials said their stress increased in the past year with 52 percent saying stress has kept them awake at night in the past month.

Online dating, AI and sex gadgets make it easier to utilize time, depersonalising the selection process, in favor of a quicker and easier experience.

This is supported by a Pew study that found, 61% agree that online dating is easier and more efficient than other ways of meeting people.

Celebrity Sexbots, Unrealistic Expectations and Dating

Photo Credit: Sex Dolls That Talk Back, NYT

During the London conference, author David Levy stated that celebrities such as Kim Kardashian could license their own image, producing life-like sexbots, with AI enabling personalizing the dolls to suit buyer’s favorite celebrity characteristics.

The increase in sexbots could also lead to reliance on robots, instead of real life encounters.

Professor Noel Sharkey, professor of robotics at Sheffield University spoke at the Cheltenham Science Festival in June, warning that robots, “Will get in the way of real life, stopping people forming relationships with normal people.”

Although sexbots should not be available for under 16s he acknowledged the fact that, “If your dad or mum had one, you could sneak in and use it,” which is worrying as this could lead to underage sex and unrealistic sexual expectations.

As technology advances and sexbots like RealDoll and sex toys become more accessible, this would no doubt change dating and relationship dynamics.

Neil McArthur, a professor of philosophy and ethics at the University of Manitoba in Canada, told Huffington Post in 2015 that sexbots would, “promote unattainable body ideals.”

He added, “You just aren’t going to make a robot that has a complicated personality and isn’t always in the mood. That’s going to promote a sense that, well, women should be more like an idealized robot personality that is a pliant, sexualized being.”

How do you think sex robots will affect relationships, dating and marriage in modern society?