Sex robots are here and they are only becoming more advanced as there appears to be a viable market and a clear demand for this kind of technology to develop.
2020 marked the year that people became scared of their own shadows and the outside world. Online activity boomed during the pandemic and loneliness sky rocketed creating a real need for connection and human contact. Many were shut in doors and prohibited from being able to interact with others, limiting human contact. This created another problem. People were horny. So horny that sales for sex toys went up all around the world.
Statistics from a popular adult brand Womaniser, reveal that the online sale of sex toys grew in the UK by around 13% in 2020. However it seems the Brits are quite prudish compared to their Canadian and Italian counterparts. In Canada during the same year online sex toy sales sharply rose by 135% whilst in Italy sales increased by 71%. Florida based company Sex Doll Genie claims to have also seen a 51% demand in their products during this same time period. Even in the most unprecedented times man indulges. Was this merely sexual gratification or a way to cope with the circumstances being faced? We will explore that.
The global sex toy market is worth a whopping $30 billion as of 2020 and is predicted to swell to $56.58 billion by 2027. Sex robots have been up and running for the last few years, with companies all around the globe providing different types of robotic companions. These robots may not be hyper realistic but through sextech, sex robots are innovating further. It’s been dubbed sextech as the technology focuses on enhancing, innovating and ‘disrupting’ every area of human sexuality and human sexual experience. The people in this industry are trying to change how people view and experience sex. Why does it feel like every industry is trying to get us hooked up to some sort of tech? Disrupting is definitely an appropriate use of wording as there have understandably been concerns raised about the future of sex robots in our world.
The data over the last few years has shown that more people are becoming comfortable with introducing technology into the bedroom. There has been a continual increase in the number of people living alone, the post COVID world is also more isolating as a large chunk of society spend more time alone in the house whether that be working from home or engaging more in virtual hangouts and spaces using VR and other gaming equipment.
According to Statista,
As of 2021, approximately 8.3 million people lived alone in the United Kingdom, an increase of around 52,000 when compared with the previous year when around 8.25 million people were estimated to be living by themselves.
In places such as Norway and Sweden, single person households account for up to 50% of all households and in some cities around the world these households are the majority.
People are lacking real life human to human contact and the #sextech industry sees that. Whether people are choosing to be alone or it is simply a sign of the times, companies like Florida based Sex Doll Genie have reported an overwhelming increase of interest in their products from single male and females, same sex and straight couples. Sex Doll Genie is currently working on their own top of the line sex robot that has its own heart beat and simulates breathing.
When discussing robots or sex dolls it usually goes without saying that the robot is created in the image of a human woman. Aesthetics vary depending on what customers are attracted to. The appearance of a sex robot is one of the most important things about it before its capabilities. How far can sex robots go in terms of realism though? Is the goal to look as realistic as possible and/or simulate human behaviour and characteristics? If so this goes beyond sex.
The first robotic sex doll that used AI learning was created and launched in 2018 by sex robot company RealDoll. The robot is named Harmony and was the first of her kind, I discussed this in episode 8 of the podcast which you can listen to at the bottom of the post.
Harmony is designed to respond to preferences based on information a user inputs on a separate app which they can then adjust whenever they choose to based on their changing wants and needs. This allows users to feel that there is more reciprocity in the exchange as the robot is programmed to emulate aspects of a human to human relationship. This was 2018 and it is now 2022. There has been even more new developments in sextech. Currently, RealDoll still lead in the sex robot industry for their innovation. The company are planning to release their first-ever male sex robot Harry this year. His penis is apparently going to be strong enough to carry a forklift, that should be interesting. Experts in the field are also experimenting with ways to integrate self-heating and self-lubricating erogenous zones into sex robots. Just like the real thing…
Shockingly, (or not) there has been little to no safety procedures put into place to test these different features meaning public release could be pushed back years. It is also reported that regular safety checks are scarce because agencies are embarrassed about conducting in depth investigations. I wonder why?
Newer models will also be able to respond to physical touch, recognise their owner using facial recognition software and display emotional intimacy using AI learning. The industry appears to be focusing on sexual intimacy and companionship in the next arc of sex robotics. Currently under construction are robots that will actively remember the users likes and dislikes, including facts and stories a user has shared with their machine companion. The goal is for the robot to be able to relay this information back in a ‘natural’ way via back and forth conversation. It attempts to create the experience of having a real conversation and forging an intimate connection with their robot mate. Some robots are being designed to also feature personality traits based on the users preference, such as kind, shy, or clingy personality types. Harmony already has a choice of 20 different personalities, we can only imagine what the future will bring. If you want someone to massage your ego all day you can achieve that with just a few settings adjustments.
When it comes to other adjustments, it gets highly controversial. Robots that are programmed to simulate rape scenarios or robots that are designed to appear as children. There have been discussions surrounding ethics and if this could in fact encourage negative and damaging behaviours in individuals.
For over a decade, Japanese developer and self-confessed paedophile Shin Takagi manufactures and ships out sex dolls that intentionally look like children. He says that the device helps him and others fulfil sexual desires and prevents him from ever abusing a real child. As the sex robot and sex doll industry is still very much new there are many grey areas and no real legislation. There have been calls to ban the production of these kinds of sex dolls amid fears that users will then escalate to a real child. This is honestly not an insane theory when you think about it. Some of the most prolific murderers and serial killers began torturing and then killing animals before escalating to human beings.
Campaigners believe that sex robots are being marketed as a product that can replace real human interaction and relationships. Relying on a robot for companionship and affection can hinder a person’s ability to interact with other people as they become accustomed to a programmed robot designed to be at their beck and call.
Kathleen Richardson, who is a professor of the Ethics and Culture of Robots and AI at De Montfort University in Leicester, wants this kind of marketing outlawed. She spoke with the BBC in 2020
“These companies are saying, ‘you don’t have a friendship? You don’t have a life partner? Don’t worry we can create a robot girlfriend for you’. A relationship with a girlfriend is based on intimacy, attachment and reciprocity. These are things that can’t be replicated by machines,” she said.
Indeed they are machines. Machines that cannot authentically present feelings such as empathy and compassion. It does not possess free thought even with vast AI learning and increasing realism, the relationship will always be one sided no matter how well it is designed. The growing buzz around sex robots and the race to make them more realistic also gives great insight into the stage our society has devolved to. Human interactions are more sterile due to technology and loneliness amongst younger people is growing at a rapid rate. In a world of germs and bacteria, many have isolated themselves causing a domino effect of social issues we see in our current world.
Brave New World was written by Aldous Huxley in 1931. He wrote about the masses being at the mercy of technology and how it controlled their decision making through porn, social media and the commercialisation of sex. Their world is based on hedonism at the centre of everything, they are blind drunk with lust and desire…oh and drugs. The masses thought they were happy, after all they could indulge in all the depravity they wanted. Little did they know this illusion of happiness was the very means by which they were enslaved, a distraction if you will. Today, Huxley’s novel is even more frightening.