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Dating has always been difficult Online Dating - Men Don't Get It And Women Don't Understand Online Dating - Men Don't Get It And Women Don't Understand Do online dating websites work? It's time for a frank discussion! What I learned from interviews was that online dating is equally painful for men and for women, but for very different reasons. Read More , for men and women alike Here's What Dating Sites Are Like If You're A Woman Here's What Dating Sites Are Like If You're A Woman As an experiment I set up accounts on three of the more popular free dating websites, then spoke to some women about their experiences. Here’s what happened. Read More . However, the latest advances in artificial intelligence is set to create a growing sex robot industry, and may very well change the foundation of human relationships. As though relationships between the sexes wasn’t complicated enough, advances in sex doll technology threatens to add another complication to the dating power structure.

On June 16th, News.com.au published a feature article about the sex doll company RealDoll, which offers customizable dolls with skin, eyes, hair, and personality of your choosing. It’s almost as if the company is trying to transform their “sex dolls” into “love dolls”.

The State of Sex Doll Technology

It’s a common trope in movies and television that the loser guy who can never get any dates has an open-mouthed, inflatable (and creepy-looking) doll stored away in his closet.

blowupdolls

He’s usually portrayed as a creep. A loser. An antisocial person who could never get a woman even if he was the last man on Earth.

Whether or not that’s a realistic depiction of the people who own such dolls, dolls like RealDoll may change how these owners are viewed by making the technology less about sex and more about artificial intelligence and companionship.

These new dolls won’t remain static and corpse-like forever. If RealDoll founder Matt McMullen has anything to say about it, some day these “dolls” may appear more like actual human companions than ever before.

Currently the “Realbotix” line (as it’s called) is focused on perfecting the head itself – the motions and artificially intelligent speech Microsoft, Artificial Intelligence, and The Robot Apocalypse Microsoft, Artificial Intelligence, and The Robot Apocalypse Microsoft is giving a line of autonomous robots a serious look. Is this the beginning of the end for humans, or just another step forward in the push for safe artificial intelligence? Read More that is meant to give users the illusion that they are dealing with an actual, thinking, sentient being Thinking Machines: What Neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence Can Teach Us About Consciousness Thinking Machines: What Neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence Can Teach Us About Consciousness Can building artificially intelligent machines and software teach us about the workings of consciousness, and the nature of the human mind itself? Read More .

The technology is due to be released for sale as early as 2017 for just under $13,000, with the next phase of the project focusing on animating the body as well – leading to the development of realistic sex robots.

The Psychology of Sex Dolls

Much of the conversation that usually surrounds these dolls when it’s discussed in the psychological community focuses on the reduced social skills these men will have when they are no longer forced to interact with other women in the dating scene.

In 2012, psychology student Sarah Hatheway Valverde of Cal Poly State University based her Master’s Thesis around understanding the makeup of this doll-owning population. She wrote:

“More often than not, sex doll-ownership is portrayed as pathological. Sex doll-owners are members of a marginalized population, and accessing the population is challenging as many members of the community wish to remain anonymous for fear of judgment, persecution, and psychiatric labeling.”

What Sarah found was that the reality of this community is not quite what is depicted in the media (particularly relevant in light of the recent media surrounding the Realbotix technology).

She found that many of the owners appeared to be quite “normal” and do not suffer from some psychological or pathological ailments.

“Although this phenomenon is unusual it is not blatantly pathological. The survey results suggest doll-owners are not only employed and educated, but also do not appear to suffer
significantly from major mental illness and appear satisfied with their lives.”

She even goes so far as to point out that the rates of depression Depression & The Internet: Welcome To Your Temporary Support Group Depression & The Internet: Welcome To Your Temporary Support Group Talking is important, and sometimes the Internet is a good substitute when your real life friends aren't around. Here are three sites I recommend for less formal depression-focused conversations. Read More among people who want a sex doll but don’t own one are higher than those who decided to buy one.

This is apparent in many of the videos portraying the Realdoll customers, where the owners appear to be content with their purchases – even as the public (and their family) looks upon their behavior with disdain and in many cases, disgust.

Sarah predicts that once the technology advances to the point where they are indistinguishable from other humans, the stigma may disappear entirely.

“Advances in robotics may one day produce human replicas so realistic as to be mistaken for human. A preference for a synthetic partner could become mainstream behavior and no longer a considered deviant.”

How close are we to that reality? It’s a little scary when you think about the speed at which artificial intelligence and robotics are providing the tools needed to create realistic “synthetic” partners that could replace human partners.

Sex Robot Technology in Three Years

The pace of progress is only speeding up in recent years, and if Sarah Hatheway Valverde’s research is any indication, there could be a significant increase in the number of people adopting the use of the technology, as the dolls are made more human-like.

If you don’t think they can make robots move like a normal human being, check out the animatronics used in Jordan Wolfson’s (creepy-looking) female robot that danced like a stripper at this art exhibit.

(Seriously, that face is really creepy 7 Real Humanoid Robots That Will Give You Nightmares 7 Real Humanoid Robots That Will Give You Nightmares Robots are starting to move, look, and speak like people. Unfortunately, as with any cutting edge venture, sometimes you fly a little too close to the sun. Read More . I hate art.)

The limitations here are obvious. In the art example above, the robot needs a large metal rod supporting the body, because scientists are still working on achieving perfect human-like balance with bipedal robots.

This is apparent just by how many times robots struggled to remain standing at the 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge – leading Erik Sofge of Popular Science to reflect upon just how for bipedal robots have to go.

“Researchers have made impressive progress with two-legged bots, but look closely at those impressive videos of systems strolling around the lab or running on a treadmill. They are always supported by tethers, to catch them when they inevitably fall.”

So it may be some time still before there are actual stripper robots dancing in the clubs.

And then there’s the question of safety. Underneath that silicone, human-like skin, there are steel rods, screws and plates. Will a fully-functional animatronic robot – what is essentially the same thing as an industrial robot – be safe for people to touch, dance with, and more? This remains to be seen.

Animatronics will help with achieving realism with face movements, a technology that is almost already perfected. A great example of this was a YouTube video posted by one robotics expert in 2007.

Clearly, there’s promise there.

Getting back to McMullen and his Realbotix line – he’s collaborating with Hanson Robotics to get the animatronics right, but the more interesting part of the technology is its ability to hold an actual conversation with another person.

McMullen described it to the Times like this:

“What is she thinking, does she like it? If you can create [that reality], or the illusion of that, it is going to be a much more impressive pay-off than ‘Wow, she can gyrate her hips by herself.'”

The head will be able to blink, open and close its mouth, and she’ll be able to have a “convincing” artificially intelligent conversation, generating plausible dirty talk in response to whatever you’re doing.”

How convincing is that conversation? If you view the Realbotix video above, even when McMullen gets the robot to come up with the correct responses during the conversation, the voice still sounds tinny and mechanical.

However, if advancements like Yamaha Vocaloid are any indication (see the video below of her singing in 2009), this area has more potential to advance a bit more quickly than the robotic balance limitations.

Still, the first generation Realbotix voice is nowhere near that quality, so it will likely be another year or two before the next generation heads feature a more realistic, human-like voice.

It’s really the next generation of McMullen’s work that may take the technology to the next level. That next generation is the robotic body, which will end up costing anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000. It still isn’t clear whether that robotic body would accomplish the feat of bipedal balance or fluid human-like movements.

So, for the cost of a new car, you may be able to buy yourself a synthetic, artificially intelligent Here's Why Scientists Think You Should be Worried about Artificial Intelligence Here's Why Scientists Think You Should be Worried about Artificial Intelligence Do you think artificial intelligence is dangerous? Does AI may pose a serious risk to the human race. These are some reasons why you may want to be concerned. Read More partner who hopefully will be able to do more than just move sections of her body and talk with a voice that sounds like R2D2.

How do you feel about the advancements in this field? Are sex dolls approaching the “uncanny valley”, or will human-like partners revolutionize relationships for people who find it impossible to establish them with actual humans? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

  1. Kasir
    June 16, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    Critics of the technology seldom think long term. Compare if you will the video game "The Last of Us" to the original Resident Evil game. A similar evolution will likely occur in sexbots it took humans tens of millions of years to move as they do, with this in mind asimo is pretty damn impressive. In the years to come this will be a cheap and convincing method of simulating sex and relationships without the stress associated with humans.

  2. Doug Robotfukker
    April 1, 2016 at 12:13 am

    Can't wait for the sex bots to come! I can afford up to $10,000. So if it costs a whole lot more we need 0% financing with approved credit OR a robot brothel. LOL.

  3. Joe
    February 20, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    I think the benefits here are being overlooked. I think we would have a decline in population. Less reports of domestic voilence and rape. And the spread of sexual transmitted diseases will most drop dramatically. These are the pros of artificial companionship. As for the cons, only time would tell.

  4. Bill
    February 12, 2016 at 3:50 am

    I'm a pretty normal married guy, but I can't wait to get one of these!!!

  5. David Stark
    January 28, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    It is the overall goal of the one person in temporary control of this planet. Rule or ruin.

  6. LtTora
    January 27, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    Women scream and howl about sexual harassment or bigotry for the slightest thing, they tell us how stupid, useless, insensitive, selfish and violent we are, they tell us that they want all men to just die, they say it to our faces "we don't need/want you!"

    They tell us how horrible and bias we are and more from the time we are little children and throughout our lives and then when the tables turn and men say "fine we don't want you either" what do they do? They scream and howl about that!

    Make up your damn minds people, either you want us for love and companionship, you don't, but don't tell us how "men need to all die" and then tell us how were sexist and horrible because we aren't looking to you for companionship and intimacy anymore.

    If you hate us so much than why the hell should you care? I would think women would be happy that men are no longer interested is sex with them anymore, since you’re the ones who tell us that all sex is rape and how were all rapists by genetic design.

    The only thing that keeps me from being tempted to get one of these things is my very deeply held view that Masturbation is a moral sin, but that is my choice. Does that phrase sound familiar? It should!

  7. lnyg
    November 26, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    In certain male minds yes there could possibly be women who are upset that their "monopoly" on sex has been taken away, but for another huge chunk of us women, the prospect of these things being popular would be reaffirming our biggest fears that many men think that we are no more than a vagina with a pretty package. That there are men out there who are vocal about us becoming "obsolete" as if we were some kind of outdated appliance is depressing and I don't see how they don't see their own hypocrisy when they claim that women treat them like portable ATMs.

  8. Kathy Jones
    July 20, 2015 at 6:47 am

    Come on! Men do not need intelligence in a sex doll. If they did they would do fine with their GFs and wives won't they?

    • Ryan Dube
      July 21, 2015 at 4:44 am

      I suspect what these particular men are looking for may be intelligence minus the emotion and/or drama...?

  9. Brad Merrill
    June 27, 2015 at 11:33 pm

    The idea that these things could evolve into AI companions is both fascinating and frightening. It reminds me a lot of the movie "Her" — although the AI in that movie didn't have a body.

  10. David Stark
    June 27, 2015 at 3:35 am

    The "perfect storm" seems to be brewing for the fall of the human race. The ability to reproduce at a sustainable rate is not yet in immediate danger, but there has to be a tipping point. So far, Western society in particular seems to be in the throes of adapting to at least three major self-inflicted impediments to population maintenance: 1) Abortion and birth control, 2) Same-sex marriage, and 3) Pursuing sexual relationships with non-human substitutes.

    The human race will not necessarily die out completely. A more plausible outcome is that the poorer and less literate cultures will simply outbreed the modern societies and ultimately pull the world to their levels.

    • fcd76218
      June 27, 2015 at 1:15 pm

      "Be fruitful and multiply" may have been good advice and good practice 2000, 3000, 4000 years ago. Today it is a death sentence for the planet and humanity. With increased population comes increased overuse and abuse of resources leading to global warming. Any method that keeps the population numbers down or reduces them, even war, is preferable to unrestrained breeding.

      • David Stark
        June 27, 2015 at 1:33 pm

        Any argument based on the discredited "global warming" trope fails automatically. The Earth has been cooling down for the past 20 years, probably in response to the Sun's decreasing output.

        As far as "overuse of resources" is concerned, the Earth has the capacity to support at least 3 times the present population. The apparent overuse is actually maldistribution, caused by greed and corruption, not by overpopulation.

        By the way, "be fruitful and multiply" had another part - "fill the Earth and subdue it." We weren't meant to be crammed into small areas, leaving vast portions of the planet uninhabited.

        • fcd76218
          June 27, 2015 at 3:52 pm

          "Any argument based on the discredited “global warming” trope fails automatically."
          How convenient for you.

          "The Earth has been cooling down for the past 20 years"
          Just like the eco-nazis, you seem to think that 20 years is a statistically significant period when it comes to climate change. If you had said 20,000 or at least 5,000 years then your comment would be more credible.

          "the Earth has the capacity to support at least 3 times the present population."
          According to whom?

          "We weren’t meant to be crammed into small areas, leaving vast portions of the planet uninhabited."
          Again, according to whom? How do you know what we are or are not meant to do?!

        • David Stark
          June 27, 2015 at 8:27 pm

          Do you have any factual or logical counterarguments to use, or are you limited to snide remarks?

          The global warming folks have not claimed millennia worth of data, either, so what is your point?

          The capacity of Earth to support human life was calculated and published years ago. Do your own research and you might learn something.

          Whether you believe in evolution or intelligent design, logic dictates that a species is "meant to do" whatever promotes its survival. What humans have been doing lately is evidently contrary to that goal because it is putting us at risk of extinction.

    • LtTora
      January 27, 2016 at 6:56 pm

      Well that is the overall goal of alot of people in the Democrat Party, not that the Rep are any different. So I would say that to many people this is a victory for progressivism.

  11. hggfftr75
    June 25, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    This along with virtual reality will change the whole dating/sex dynamic. Personally I'm looking forward to it. Programming means that you can get exactly what you want.

    But I can understand why some would be against it...especially those who use(d) their social/sexual skills to manipulate a relationship to their advantage. This would devalue such individuals making them virtually powerless in the new order. That's terribly frightening from their perspective if one thinks about it.

  12. Lynda Clayton
    June 25, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    This is seriously disturbing...like Stepford disturbing. I'll take the real thing, flaws and all!

    • likefun butnot
      June 25, 2015 at 6:08 pm

      There are huge groups of people for whom the real thing simply isn't an available option. You can probably say those people are to some degree defective in some aspect of their social or psychological development, but having an appropriate outlet is probably better than the consequence of their interactions with those people who can handle the real thing.

      • Ryan Dube
        June 25, 2015 at 11:55 pm

        It's unfortunate, but true. Not sure if it should be a mental disorder of sorts or not, but some of these folks simply can't achieve those kinds of relationships. It's probably not fair to judge.

      • Roger Buoy
        September 15, 2015 at 10:35 pm

        Couldn't agree more. The question is, would allowing them to indulge their fantasies with a robot make their behaviour towards the rest of us better or worse?

  13. fcd76218
    June 25, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    Even though a sex doll in the long run costs less than a wife or a girl friend, I'd rather have the flesh and blood version.

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