You could call it “sexual competition.” Robotic dolls designed for intimate companionship are hitting the market.
Some of the newest dolls or “sex robots” respond to touch. They talk. Their artificial emotional intimacy is powered by artificial intelligence.
Simon Dubé, who researches human sexuality, is hosting a virtual academic conference this week titled “Love and Sex with Robots," attended by around 130 academics and industry leaders. He says new possibilities for human-robot relationships are emerging.
It’s the wild west, as companies experiment and market new types of “experiences.”
Matt McMullen, the founder of AI and robotics startup, Realbotix, says customers don’t necessarily want robots that are just like humans.
“We’ve done many, many dolls that are gender fluid or may have one or both genders," McMullen says. "I think people like to kind of experiment where they may come up with something that may not or could not exist in reality.”
Customization is becoming commonplace. For example, for 3,000 bucks, you can order Marvella, a talking, life-size doll. You choose her face and skin tone.
Academics are interested in understanding the intimacy between humans and their robotic companions, observing with great curiosity where the technology is headed.
"We’re getting closer and closer to actual learning technology," says author Rebecca Gibson, "Where the programming of the robot will be self-sustaining and will adapt to the environment and its own desires."