Companies Are Developing “Synthetic Human” Companions, But Can They Replace Actual Human Companionship?
Robot technology has advanced significantly in recent decades, thanks to the hard work of companies like Boston Dynamics. The debate around sex robots has consequently increased. This leads to a question. Will people want to interact with each other if there’s a more convenient option?
For centuries, we’ve wondered how technological advancements, robots and AI would change our everyday lives for the better. How would production become more efficient and streamlined, and how communication and transportation would improve. And it did, but at what cost?
Self-checkout counters have all but replaced regular cashiers. Elaborate AI’s like Alexa and Siri inform us of the latest news and the weather. Factories are becoming fully automated and self-driving cars are not a pipe dream anymore. Automation is not only taking away jobs, but gradually replacing one of the most integral human necessities — interaction.
In a way, we’ve already neglected it. Smartphones and social media often take precedence over an actual conversation. With sex robots, be it due to an introvert nature or a busy schedule, many people are already resorting to artificial companions. And despite this being generally frowned upon, a Japanese man, Akihiko Kondo, married a hologram of Hatsune Miku in 2018.
Hatsune Miku is a popular character in the land of the rising sun, appearing prominently in merchandising and video games. Naturally, Kondo’s marriage to the character is not recognized by the law, but the company manufacturing the hologram sent him a somewhat official marriage certificate. What’s more interesting is that they’ve already sent out 3700 of these certificates. There’re at least several thousand people married to a fictional character.
A hologram is one thing, but what if it had a corporeal body?
Manufacturing Sex Robots For Modern Consumers
Realbotix, a company based in California and known for its line of RealDoll sex dolls, is currently pioneering developments in robot AI. Among its selection of products are several dozen dolls with realistic features for both men and women. Coming in many shapes and sizes, most of these dolls look quite convincing. Others look like characters from “Team America: World Police”.
And that’s where the Realbotix’s latest offering comes into play. Meet the company’s most recent addition to the growing line of sex robots: Harmonyx and Solanax. Powered by the proprietary Harmony AI, these robotic heads are attachable to almost any RealDoll body. They speak, blink, and mimic lifelike expressions and can even simulate an orgasm.
Oh, they also remember your birthday and can tell a funny joke as well. Something along the lines of ,“So, a naked android walks into a bar… “. By installing the RealDoll X app, you can alter its personality and voice, and the AI develops the more you converse. It’s not necessarily meant for sexual interaction and the relationship can be purely platonic. But of course, these robotic companions are “fully equipped” to satisfy your wildest fantasies.
Divorcee going by the inconspicuous nickname of Brick Dollbanger was the first to try out the new Harmony robot. In an extensive interview with The Sun, he rated the experience as a 7/8 out of 10. Not bad, for what’s still a relatively crude representation of an actual human being.
But before you jump for your credit card in excitement, hold that thought. These artificial ladies will cost you upward of $7999.99, and that’s just for the head and a year’s subscription to the RealDoll X AI app. A body will cost an additional $4000.00 and if you decide on any extra features or special adjustments, such as realistic eyes and larger breasts , the price may very well rocket over $20000. Yup, that’s the price of a decent car.
But according to Mr. Dollbanger, who owned a 1980’s Corvette, that investment is easily justified.
“But I’ll tell you what, I never had as much fun with that car than I’ve had with the dolls,” he said in another interview with the Mirror.
It seems that, even at this stage, sex robots are making quite the impression.
But despite the progress, products like Harmony are not yet prevalent within society. There’s still a social stigma around them. They’re something you hide in the closet, hoping no one will find out. Moreover, they lack in terms of intelligence and still look like dolls. As Matt McMullen, the Founder and CEO of Realbotix puts it: “At the end of the day, it’s not meant to be a replacement for a human being. It’s not meant to be a replacement for a relationship.”
Taking his words into consideration, can a robot ever replace an actual human interaction?
For that to happen, it might require someone like Ava from 2014’s “Ex Machina” starring Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander. The Alex Garland movie focused on a programmer who’s hired to perform the Turing Test on an android.
Visually, Ava (Vikander) looks and acts like a real person, and her actual body can be concealed beneath artificial skin. If Caleb (Gleeson) can’t tell that she’s a robot just by conversing with her for over a week, then she passes the test.
Meaning, if we perceive something or someone as real, then they may as well be. Some might argue that there’s much more to human interaction than that. But is there? Whether you’re made of flesh and bone or complex wiring, might not matter, so long as there’s a genuine exchange between two equally sapient beings, sexual or otherwise.
And this potential issue doesn’t pertain to just lonely or desperate men. As Whitney Cummings mentioned during episode #1328 of the Joe Rogan Experience, sex robots are in demand among women almost as much as they are among men. And while we’re at it, for just under $500, you can endow Harmony and Solana with something more manly downstairs.
For now, artificial companions are fairly limited in their use and with a hefty price tag, they’re not exactly affordable by your everyday Joe (no offense to Joes). However, given the rapid development of technology and the benefits that sex robots present, such as complete control over aesthetics and character, no infidelity, and no STD’s, they’re sure to pose a threat to human interaction in the not-too-distant future.
Think about it. In a few decades, your next hot date might be made out of stainless steel with a discreet print of “Made in China” on the back of its neck.