Things we do for love: Are sex robots ushering in the age of the digisexual?

Although sex robots are still relatively new, and the technology is immature at best, the existence of these robots has already given rise to the term “digisexual.” There are a few different definitions for digisexual depending on where you look, but the definition that seems to be most prevalent is that a digisexual is someone who only has sex with robots.

Although having a sexual relationship with a machine might fall well outside of the mainstream, the idea isn’t quite as uncommon as you might think. There have been countless documented instances over the years of people getting it on with machines. The TV show “Untold Stories of the ER,” for example, ran a story about a guy who became stuck while having relations with a camping stove. Similarly, another show, “My Strange Addiction,” once did a story about a guy who has an intimate relationship with his car. The series has also featured a guy who claims to be married to a doll, and even a woman who married a carnival ride.

While these are some rather strange examples of people having relations with machines, let’s not forget that sex toys are pervasive around the world, and many of these toys are mechanized. So clearly robot sex has at least some sort of history. There have probably been humans having sexual relations with machines for as long as machines have existed. The machine might be something as complex as a robot or it could be something as simple as a vibrator. In either case, it is still a machine.

But is being digisexual really a thing? Are there really people out there who prefer a robot to a human companion, and self-identify as a digisexual? I am guessing that there probably are such people in the world, but I would also guess that most of the people who partake in robot sex probably do so because of the lack of a human companion or perhaps out of general curiosity rather than actually preferring a robot to a human partner.

What options exist for robot sex?

sex robots

When it comes to robot sex, there are three main options that seem to exist. The first option is a very simple robot. I have seen a few of these at technology trade shows over the years, but for the life of me, I can’t seem to recall who makes them (they may have even just been prototypes). Basically, these are just simple machines that perform one or two different motions. Again, I will leave the specifics to your imagination.

A second option is VR porn. This one can’t truly be classified as robotics, but I am including it in the discussion anyway because like a sex robot, it involves a machine that is being configured to provide sexual stimulation.

I have never personally experienced VR porn, but from what I have heard the VR glasses project a completely immersive environment, and allow you to look around in any direction. One or more very lifelike partners are rendered in 3D, but the rendering is done in a way that makes them appear life-size. Based on my non-porn VR experience, I can only imagine how convincing the illusion must be.

The third option is to purchase an advanced (and very expensive) sex robot. At the moment, the best example is a robot named Harmony. It’s basically a something called a Real Doll that has been outfitted with a speech synthesizer, motors that can create facial expressions (there are no motors in the doll’s limbs), and an AI engine. According to the video, it is possible to use an application to change the robot’s voice and personality. If you want to know more about Harmony, click this link — but be forewarned, it’s strictly NSFW, or maybe anyplace else!

What does the future hold for sex robots?

Like any other technology, sex robots will undoubtedly become more technologically advanced over time. Although there are some countries that have already created laws banning the use of sex robots, I think that it is probably safe to say that in areas where sex robots are legal, they will see wider adoption as the technology improves and the cost decreases.

But what will the sex robots of the future be like? While I seriously doubt that sex robot engineers will try to mimic the Fembots of Austin Powers fame, there are a few things that I do expect to happen.

First, I think that as technology improves, the robots facial expressions will become more lifelike. My guess is that tomorrow’s robots will have hundreds of tiny articulators embedded in their faces, and a microcontroller will be able to engage and disengage these devices in a way that creates lifelike expressions. The same technology might also be put to use in the robot’s chest as a way of making it seem as though the robot is breathing. How creepy would that be?

I also expect that the robot’s synthesized speech will be vastly improved. You may have noticed in the video that Harmony currently sounds more like a robot than a human. The technology for producing human-like computer speech already exists, and it is only a matter of time before this or similar technology makes its way into sex robots.

As time goes on, the AI engines used in sex robots will also inevitably improve, making the robots more engaging and perceptive. Of course, all of these improvements will probably require more battery power and more computing power. I look for someone to figure out a way to dissipate the resulting heat through the robot’s skin, making it feel less like cold clammy latex, and more like warm human flesh.

What could go wrong with robot sex? A lot!

sex robots

Personally, I don’t find the idea of robot sex to be appealing, but clearly, there are people who do. Otherwise, sex robots wouldn’t exist. Regardless of my own personal feelings about sex robots however, I find the technology that is being put to work in these robots to be absolutely fascinating. Besides, who am I to judge others?

I think that some of the technology that may eventually be developed for sex robots could eventually be applied to less seedy use cases, such as providing more realistic prosthetics to people who are disabled.

At the same time, I just can’t help but to also imagine a few ways in which the experience of using one of these robots might go horribly wrong. No, I’m not talking about injuries. I’m thinking of robots adopting some of the more annoying characteristics that are associated with other technologies. Could we one day hear of sex robots stopping midstream to install updates and reboot? Worse yet, might sex robots choose to put a stop to the action and refuse to continue until their partner listens to an ad or takes a survey? Never mind what might happen if the sex robots were to be infected by malware.

I think that given enough time, communities of tech enthusiasts will probably come together and come up with ways of hacking and reprogramming sex robots. While there may be some people who wish to perform digital lobotomies on their robotic partners, there will inevitably be people who will use such techniques to program their robots to suddenly develop tastes for things that go way beyond what the robot’s manufacturer intended.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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