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Musings On Robot Sex Dolls and Companions
John Niman   May 18, 2012   BoydFuturist  

The currents of the internet work in odd ways; this past week the theme seems to be robot sex. Since I have had it on the brain, I figure I will contribute to the trendiness and throw my own 2c in.

(Just as a note, I will indicate any link that is explicitly Not Safe For Work).  I am going to blur the line a bit between just discussing robot sex and discussing robot companionship, a somewhat more involved relationship than the purely physical.

It seems to me there are essentially three main questions when it comes to human-robot sex. First, can we build a machine that anyone would want to have sex with? Second, how “intelligent” should that machine be? Third, is this just a fetish for weirdoes?

Technical Feasibility:

Not only can we build robots that people want to have sex with; we already have.

Certainly, there are all manner of devices people use for sexual pleasure, but I want to focus on machines more sophisticated than your average vibrator.

The aptly titled “fucking” (NSFW) is a pornographic site founded in 2000 that features videos and pictures of women having sex with robots that are not particularly technically advanced, and certainly not on the level of a sophisticated android sex-bot. Think battle bots for the bedroom. Despite the lack of sophistication, these are industrial pieces of hardware. For the home user, somewhat tamed versions of machines built for pleasure are available from mainstream websites like this “Love Glider Sex Machine” from (NSFW). (NSFW) has a number of both male and female android dolls for purchase. Although the website is not well constructed, this page (NSFW) seems to show various servos, circuit boards, and otherwise fairly advanced robotics working together to create a somewhat lifelike robot. Less sophisticated, but perhaps more lifelike, are Real Dolls (NSFW), in production since 1996. Real Dolls are as close as I have seen to human-looking sex bots, but are still a long way from indistinguishable from human.

The most realistic robot that I have yet seen (though it is not designed specifically for sex) is Geminoid F from Osaka University’s Professor Hiroshi Ishigurou. This robot can smile, talk, move, and appears very lifelike. According to this video, she even has “basic emotions and behaviors” programmed in. The biggest problems that I can see from the demonstration videos are that (1) the robot might be firmly entrenched in the “uncanny valley” (2) her movements are still a little jerky, and (3) her software is highly advanced, but hardly lifelike.

The uncanny valley is a hypothesis that argues that as robots become more human-like a human observer’s emotional response becomes more positive and empathetic. However, at some point, the robot is –too- lifelike, and a feeling of revulsion quickly replaces the positive and empathetic emotional response. If the robot becomes yet more lifelike, to the point of being indistinguishable from a human, the human observer’s emotional response will again become positive and empathic. Thus, to have a sex bot that anyone would actually want to have sex with, the robot is going to have to be on one side or the other of the uncanny valley; either not particularly lifelike, or extremely lifelike. For a robot that is expected to be more than a sex toy (say, for someone that a human might want to be partnered with) the robot would have to be extremely advanced and nearly indistinguishable from a human being.

Jerky movements can be compensated for by ever-better servos and other methods of movement. Popular Science, for instance, recently reported on Nobuhiro Takahashi and the University of Electro-Communications’ new robotic butt that responds to “slaps, caresses, and finger pokes.”

The video is a little creepy, but shows the sort of fine ‘muscle’ movement that Geminoid F lacks; movement that could be very useful in other parts of the robot as well.

ExtremeTech posted an article about Kissenger, a telepresence robot designed to allow two humans to kiss across great distances through a robot. Although this is hardly more advanced than previous robots, it does suggest that humans are willing to at least attempt to transmit an emotional connection through a robot. In addition, as ET points out, how much of a stretch is it from kissing a robot with another human on the other side to kissing a robot controlled by an A.I.?

This ScienceDaily article highlights synthetic skin that could, one day, allow a robot to feel. Even if we assume that there is no quail (roughly: experiential consciousness) behind a robot feeling, all the data streams involved in transmitting some kind of feeling could be very useful for triggering micro-movements in various parts of the skin, perhaps even including subtle changes like goose bumps, etc.

Technically, I think we are about there. Some more materials development (in particular a temperature regulation system and a lubrication system would be two huge upgrades that I have not seen) some finer muscle control, and some more realistic design and robots might just climb out of the uncanny valley. However, what about the software side of the robot?

A.I. and Sex-Bots:

The next question is how much artificial intelligence a robot companion ought to have.

On one end of the scale, we have Real Dolls – essentially human-looking mannequins without any sort of robotics or artificial intelligence. These sorts of sex-bots are fine as far as they go for purely physical entertainment, but most people probably will not develop any emotional connection to their toys (especially if they hang their Real Doll by the “removable neck bolt” as their FAQ suggests.)

Towards the middle of the scale, and likely right at the edge of our current capability, we have Geminoid F; a robot with basic emotional scales programmed in that can spontaneously create new reactions to situations. The jerky physical movement is mimicked by the jerky emotional reactions; they are broadly appropriate, but are not exactly finely tuned enough to seem human.

Ideally, it seems like the perfect robot companion ought to have emotions that at least mimic human emotions very well; the ability to smile, wink, and bite their lip at just the right time and have something that at least seems plausibly like a twinkle in their eye. Perhaps complex human-based personality profiles could be uploaded that allow the robot to seem very much like a human being, albeit with customizable settings for each individual user to account for differing tastes. Maybe the robot could exhibit this personality outside of the bedroom as well; transforming a sex robot into something more like a personal companion or even a partner.

However, it seems important to limit both sex robots and companion robots to non-conscious levels of intelligence. Most importantly, because I think that cognitive criteria are the defining hallmarks of a “person,” and that a robot with actual consciousness ought to be considered a person. If we think it is wrong to keep people for sex toys (and we certainly do) then I cannot see the same behavior being justifiable for conscious robots.

However, even outside of the moral personhood angle, a conscious robot would have something like free will, or at least clearly articulable preferences. If the goal of a sex-robot or companion robot is to have the ideal partner, then we certainly don’t want our robot telling us ‘no’ or ‘I’m not in the mood’ (unless we program that in for some sort of more realistic behavior.) We want to be able to program in our individual desires and preferences which make the robot ideal for each of us, and a robot with free will would presumably be overwriting our preferences with their own fairly often. A robot with true artificial intelligence would not have many advantages over a human partner.

In short, much like the physical problem of the uncanny valley, we want a robot intelligent enough to seem human-like without actually being conscious enough to be a person.

Who Would Want A Sex Robot?

We can dispense with the obvious fairly quickly; probably people with intimacy issues, various kinks and fetishes, and those who just want sex without everything else that often comes with it would be first in line for a very realistic sex-bot. ExtremeTech recently wrote an article about robot prostitutes that argues that robots could take over the prostitution industry (wouldn’t a sex-bot be cheaper over the long run, after all?) in addition to lessening human trafficking, pedophilia, and other sex crimes.

I think, however, a compelling case can be made that more than just the socially awkward and sexually deviant (in the clinical sense) would appreciate a sex-robot. Dick Pelletier recently wrote a piece for IEET where he highlights a number of authors who have argued just that, including tech luminary Ray Kurzweil: “Author Ray Kurzweil says tomorrow’s ‘droids could quickly learn to flesh out our positive feelings, providing an addictive allure almost impossible for us to resist.” Indeed, with ruthless, cunning efficiency a robot with sophisticated enough software could read various biometric signals that humans give off, allowing him or her to customize their personality to the preferences of their human owners that the owner may not even know that they have. Moreover, like any good device, the robot would presumably become more accurate over time, and change as their owner does. This sort of adaptive learning is an ingenious solution to forcing the operator to think of all of their own preferences and program them into their robot companion; something humans have a difficult enough time expressing to each other.

The allure of the perfect seducer / seductress is vast, and not to be underestimated. No matter how fabulous your human partner is, there is bound to be –something- about him or her that is not 100% ideal. Maybe they snore. Maybe they like to cut you off while you are talking. Maybe they just forget to put the toilet seat down. Whatever it is, trivial or serious, there is some way (and, likely, a number of ways) that they are not ideal. Of course, humans overlook these qualities in other humans all the time during relationships; coping with each other’s idiosyncrasies and quirks (which might even become endearing after a while) is largely what human relationships are about, and provide an extra level of intimacy in a relationship. Nevertheless, even if your human partner –is- wonderful and you cannot think of a single thing you would change about them, they are still only one personality.

An interesting implication of robot-companions is that there is little reason why multiple personalities could not be installed within one physical frame, and those personalities could be changeable at will. Maybe you want a sultry professional for an office meeting, a wild party girl for a Halloween party, a tomboy for a Super Bowl party and a quiet intellectual for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Perhaps you want a nice gentleman for dinner, a jock for the pool, and a real alpha-male for bed later. A robot companion can switch effortlessly into different personalities, each tailored to your specific desires. These personalities could even be ported into different physical frames for those who desire a differing physical appearance every now and again.

Beyond the physical and personality advantages, there could be greater emotional security from a companion bot as well. From Dick’s IEET article: “A robot partner would be the perfect mate, never showing boredom or being inattentive, Levy says. You will always be the focus and centerpiece of their existence and you never need worry about their being unfaithful or going astray, because loyalty and being faithful are embedded in their programming.” With a divorce rate hovering somewhere around 50% in the United States, human relationships seem to be the emotional equivalent of a coin flip (and subsequent relationships fare even worse.) Never mind the cost of alimony and child support.

In short, I think that with advanced enough A.I. (but not too advanced, per the above) sex or companion robots could very well become the ideal mates for humans. Human-robot relationships could be purely sexual, or they could become more like true companions. Either way, such human-robot interactions do not necessarily mean the end of human-human interactions, or inevitable extinction for lack of reproduction. There are, after all, plenty of children to adopt, and there is little reason to think that the technology involved in creating children will fail to advance as rapidly as other technologies.

We are still a long way from this sort of interaction, but the upsides seem considerable.

John Niman is an Affiliate Scholar, a J.D. Candidate at the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His primary legal interests include bioethics and personhood. He blogs about emerging technology and transhumanism at


It is good that you commented that once a robot crossed into some form of consciousness (the software side of the uncanny valley?) we would need to give them the free choice to continue as partners with their messy human or not.

Aside from the sex, which as you suggest would allow people to deal with urges and desires not fulfillable by a human partner, (how about have interchangeable ‘equipment’) My main concern with robot partners would be whether they would be enough to help with psychological and emotional growth. Relationships are the main driver for people to change their behaviour for the better. One learns to moderate their actions and desires for the good of the family. I see robots as a way of dealing with those desires in a safe way, but would they challenge us to grow as humans?

The failure of marriages in the US and to an extent in Europe is a symptom of the extreme individualism that is prevalent in Western society. We have become all about “me”, and expect our partners to shape themselves to make us happy and cast them off when they don’t. I see robots filling a void here. They would certainly be able to make people happy, but would we be continuing a trend toward the infantilization of the general populace?

I’m happy to say that I think it is unlikely that dating a robot will be accepted into society for a long long time.  In the meantime, go have sex with a refrigerator or a car.  You’ll be a player!

Robots will never have “shakti.”

Shakti is what women have, and what men want.
Shakti is unduplicatable.
Shakti cannot be created artifically.
Shakti cannot be controlled, quantified, stolen, or bought and paid for.

Shakti is female life force embodied.
Shakti can only be given freely, transferred from one human to another. 

When men wish to be with women, at their truest level of desire and feeling, they are not simply wishing to place a portion of their anatomy into a likely cavity. They are looking for the utterly essential life force energy of shakti.

Women need to become aware of the power and presence of their own shakti, and be generous in offering it to those who engage in life-honoring activities .... and withdraw it from those who will not.

—Rev. Ava Park, The Goddess Temple of Orange County

A very comprehensive and thought provoking article!

Although there may be many benefits for/towards human social deficiencies, including benefits of using robots for sexual educational purposes, there are also many negatives? For example, assuming robots prove extremely popular for both genders, why would you want to pursue any monogamous relationship with a human at all?

And for those men who find they still cannot satisfy themselves either physically or psychologically, deviant frustration unleashed on an un-feeling robot may lead to yet further deep seated hatred of women, leading to further expressions of violence against women in general? (ala Hitchcock’s “Frenzy”)

I could certainly envisage a more useful NS5 around the home, but acceptance for robots into our homes must take all forms I guess? And even Steven Spielberg was forward thinking enough to promote robot sex in his family film “A.I”? (as well as the deeper meaning and values of plutonic and maternal love)

@Pastor Alex: Thanks! I’m not sure I see a problem with increasing individualization though; To me, one of the greatest benefits of transhumanist technologies is the ability to craft a world to our individual liking (virtual or otherwise.)

@Ava Park: What about gay men, who apparently have no need for “shakti?” What’s the counter-principle for women, who (lesbians aside, perhaps) aren’t looking for “shakti” either?

@Cygnus: Thanks! I suppose that so long as robots remain sub-conscious, the main reason to pursue a relationship with a human would be the spark of spontaneity and life. Non-conscious robots could be excellent sexual partners, but for more I think consciousness is quickly required. And, at that point, there is probably little difference between dating a robot and a human.

I’m not sure about your latter point. That could be the case. Or a robot could provide an outlet for those emotions. That sounds like a problem that would need more than just a better sexual partner to cure. Although, perhaps if the robot were adept enough at determining what a human really wanted it would be able to give such a human exactly what it needs such that there isn’t anything left to hate. Presumably that wouldn’t translate to other beings, though, since other sex robots and humans would be less able to fulfill all those same needs.

@ John thanks for your reply..

My presumption was that a robot may not satisfy in cases where there is deep-seated psychological neurosis, (related to impotence, shame and self-loathing), and that rather than ease frustrations, increase anxiety and expression of violence towards women, or indeed perhaps even other men, (example “Frenzy”)

Although there is no statistical evidence that sex robots would be any more harming than watching porn and prostitution today, my point was rather that as sex robots and dolls become commonplace, that expression of violence towards these may become merely a bedroom choice? And there can be no real comparison here with expressions of domestic violence, or the protections of laws against this?

One would like to believe that men with such psychological neuroses would seek medical help voluntarily, rather than just buy a robot, but we cannot really guarantee this, or even know where help was needed in such cases?

Everyone is looking for greater amounts of shakti ... gay men, lesbians, my mother .... everyone. Everyone needs shakti .... everyone needs life force to remain in the physical body. No shakti = death.

To elaborate upon my brief comment .... actually it is not ONLY women who hold shakti, of course .... everyone living in the body has some .... in varying amounts. Babies (all genders) are born with lots, usually. Very old people usually have much less (unless they have learned to hold it, which one can do).

My point was that women, being the natural carriers of life (at least until science does away with gender altogether) usually are able to access much greater amounts of shakti than men more easily. That’s why so many men rape women ... they are literally trying to “steal” life force, by “plugging in” to the female—like an electrical cord being plugged into the outlet (Source). For human bodies, Woman is Source. The act of rape, trying to steal shakti, “sort of” works temporarily .... but in the long run it’s very damaging to everyone ... including the thief. 

Other names for shakti around the world: chi, qi, nyama, hado, prana.

What cowards some of you are for a technoprog-transhumanist site:
“oh dearie me, we mustn’t be so extweemly individuwlistic, boo hoo.”

Shakti? great band with John McLaughlin!
Can comprehend how some women feel insecure concerning ‘bots, but men? some of you need Minnie Mouse ‘bots, because you write like mice, not men.

“My main concern with robot partners would be whether they would be enough to help with psychological and emotional growth. Relationships are the main driver for people to change their behaviour for the better. One learns to moderate their actions and desires for the good of the family. I see robots as a way of dealing with those desires in a safe way, but would they challenge us to grow as humans? The failure of marriages in the US and to an extent in Europe is a symptom of the extreme individualism that is prevalent in Western society…”

The above reads like a speech from a scolding Auntie.
Some people are just hanging on, trying to survive, they don’t need Dear Abbie telling them to be goody goodies. It is easy for someone well-off to preach down to the poor, advising them to get married and behave their little selves. Of course there is something to what you write, Alex, and there’s something to the abortion debate as well.. however ‘bots and abortion just for instance, are rather minor issues—you can’t fret about every little thing. There is one way to possibly prod people to behave, though: advise them to stay indoors all day and never talk to the wrong people; that way there is less negative reinforcement and sin.

I keep thinking that what we are about here is talking about all the implications of technology and the ethics of its use. There is also a suggestion that we are also supposed to be about change. Changing ourselves and the world with technology and ethics.

The problem is that change appears to be the last thing on most people’s minds here. The comments lately have all been the very kind of pissing contest that will scare away the very people we need to make a difference. We have a choice as I see it. Get over ourselves and start doing some real work, or just keep up the sophomoric put downs and abysmally bad logic.

Remember, you brought up the nontechnical issues in the very first comment at this thread.
The reason I go into this is ‘cause IMO you are not mistaken, merely pollyannish, perhaps you don’t examine the outside world enough? if you did you would see how men are so rebellious, tell them, even just suggest politely, what they might do to change, they will do the opposite: tell a local yokel not to mess around and he will have intercourse with a cocker spaniel and upload the clip at Youtube. So it isn’t only my one cents worth, here is an apropos quote from a conservative- a real one, not a Rightwing pighead:

“The final natural fact for politics is also the most personal. The self, like all essential aspects of man, is an adaptation to selective pressures over millions of years and thus is jury-rigged from different mechanisms from our evolutionary past. It is a mistake, for example, to think of the sexual self as completely continuous with the more obviously rational acquisitive self that evolved somewhat later to take advantage of resources and status opportunities. These selves evolved for different purposes and are not fully connected—hence the frequently observed imprudence of sexual passion.”
(goes without saying you can paste this into a search engine to read the entire piece).

Of course sexuality has to be repressed somewhat! What sensible person would say unequivocatingly, ‘Do Your Thing’.. as it veers off into Utopianism.
It’s not that I do not know already all of what you have been writing here, Alex.. it isn’t rocket science. But aside from your insight that the military personnel we send out to kill may not be rehabilitate-able, you have been IMO a scolding Auntie—a martinet. I sense with men such as yourself how you are used to being a leader so you admonish as if you are in church preaching to your congregation.
I only remain at IEET because Pete and Hank advised me to. I don’t dislike you—
we are strangers, words on the screen; perhaps if I did know you in person I would dislike you, and you would certainly dislike me 😊

I mostly feel nonplussed when I read your comments, Alex; as with Rightists, it’s difficult to know what it is you want, exactly. With Rightists it isn’t really thorough disagreement with their positions, it is not knowing if power is what they actually want, or to vent their frustrations, or is it the remuneration of writing books, and articles for Rightwing rags and traveling the lecture circuit? no way of knowing.

What I actually want is what I say I want: to make the world a better place. Perhaps what is confusing you is honesty.

Could be a disingenuous approach would succeed? tell a teen he can have all the sex he wants but he can’t live a clean life, you forbid him to be sexually responsible, and he might rein in his exploits a bit? as a pastor you know well how rebellious men are; and hormone-challenged teenagers?? You are one heck of an ambitious pastor.
Don’t know how honest you are, however you are quite gullible if you think you can change others much—you can change yourself and be an example, yet even then your expectations will have to be curbed.

...perhaps your religion influences—or causes—you to drift in ‘n out of realism? here is an excerpt from your comment at the Driverless Car article demonstrating you do comprehend how difficult it is to change the way others think:

“...We could do it tomorrow and fully implement it in two years without any major change in our infrastructure. We don’t and won’t because people have this idea that owning a car is a right, and that no one can tell them what kind of car to own.”

Even more so with sex. Don’t tilt at windmills, pastor Quixote.

Your ignorance is showing, Intomorrow. I think you need to adjust your mindreading apparatus. I don’t know where you get these ideas about what I preach or don’t preach. The problems you list are yours not mine.

You’re something out of BF Skinner. Don’t you know you can’t influence much how men behave? what could you possibly do about sexual excess for instance? maybe reverse psychology plus sprinkling saltpeter on a guy’s food?? as a Christian you ought to know how rebellious men are and if you put just a bit too much pressure on men, they will lean towards doing the opposite of what you want them to.

You write you want to make the world a better place yet you do not appear to have much of a clue on going about it.

...where we differ is you think the world can be made better, while I think it can be made different; we have to believe the world can be made better, however we also should know better is subjective.
Why I think sex, including via ‘bots, is necessary for now is because men are so uncivilised, sex is an outlet for their aggressions; if they weren’t having sex they would be killing, maiming and causing other havoc more than they already do- which is more than enough as it is..

If you actually took time to read my posts before making your assumptions about what you think I would post you would have seen that I don’t think sex bots would be a bad thing. I do think they would still need to be supplemented by relationship with real intelligence in order for a person to grow.

I would really appreciate you reading through my entire comment before pulling something out of context and wrapping in you own biases, then arguing with me about something I didn’t say.

Sex bots would be useful for all the reasons mentioned in the article and some others mentioned in the comments. Given the limited sentience suggested in the article they will not be sufficient to challenge and mature the human psyche. That reality means that to maintain a healthy population of thinking beings, we will also need to encourage people to interact with each other and other intelligent beings.  The result of neglecting sentient to sentient relationship will be a population of infantile drones. They might have a smile on their face, but they won’t be terribly productive.

No, I read all your comments and saw your toleration/acceptance of ‘bots. However it appears you are as professors I talk to: they comprehend things in the abstract yet due to their schedules don’t observe the outside world carefully enough—they are smart enough that if they did so continually, they would know the world of course operates in a different way than the symbolic vehicles they use to navigate.
Here’s just one insignificant but illustrative example: a professor said he thought LBJ was the greatest president; I told him if Johnson had died before the Vietnam War hit its stride, he would have been remembered as ‘great’. Same is true if Hitler had died in 1938. The prof thought about it for a few seconds and then agreed. He knows a great deal, though it was such a simple meme it was surprising he needed to be told.
In your case you have an idealized view, you appear to think we can know a decent world… we can’t. And let’s go into thinking and responsibility.. if you would think about it, you would know how responsibility has different meanings to different people. To a burglar, responsibility means having good tools to utilize in break-ins, and a ‘fence’ to sell the swag to.
To a hard-drug dealer, responsibility means selling halfway decent powders to his junkies.  And so forth. A porn star’s responsibility is the ‘money-shot’, the climax. Etc.
You do have to say certain things to promote higher standards, (for public consumption). Citizens say they want smaller govt., albeit by now no-one deep down believes in a libertarian world; as very few actually want a smaller state, save they wish smaller govt. for those they don’t care about. Most everyone thinks they and their people deserve what they get.

Now, what you write does make sense in upholding higher moral standards, though being aware you know that life can be improved materially, physically, yet ethics are an extremely tough judgment call; for one thing, hedonism, getting it while one can, and related to this, the death wish. With new tech opening up, such can be reduced radically—but if people don’t want the transhumanist product, no amount of salesmanship is going to make a sale. As you know quite well, the majority live in the past and the present:

“now I’ll be a dandy and I’ll be a rover…who knows what tomorrow will bring… a million tomorrows will all pass away… “

You know the song, it is a tearjerker.
The one ‘remedy’ mentioned in a poll at IEET is to put cognitive-behavioral altering substances in the water supply, however it is against the law; so is prying criminals mouths open to do the same; compliance is the toughest haul you’ll ever pull.
By all means, promote higher morality; you keep in mind how, again, men are so rebellious you have to be extremely careful of unintended consequences.

“I do think they would still need to be supplemented by relationship with real intelligence in order for a person to grow.”

Grow? by whose definition, ‘growth’? St. Augustine’s? or say growth by the lights of Arthur Fonzarelli- the Fonz? It appears you know deep inside you can only change other people marginally, but it is worth doing so or at least making the attempt—which does make sense. It’s not that don Quixote was a fool, however he did suffer greatly for his ethics.
Responsibility over rights does make abundant sense for a Christian, unfortunately the bible is correct the true Christian will be persecuted for his/her beliefs, their morality, their piety, it is a unbearable burden for the overwhelming majority. This is to write that you are not ‘technically’ mistaken; all the same, morally you are aiming very high and when you get older you may not have the strength to bear the Old Rugged Cross in your heart (and body). Jesus saw everything, he explained He had overcome the world—nevertheless he did say a Christian would be persecuted and naturally He being He, He was correct 😊
I’m over 55 and wouldn’t even think of being a real Christian anymore, though it is imbedded in the subconscious so deep I couldn’t remove Christianity if I tried. Being a Christian is difficult enough for a young healthy person; for an older person it can break body & mind completely, so a decade or two from now you
may feel different about being yoked to Christ:

“I beg your pardon
Jesus never promised you a rose garden,
along with the sunshine
there’s got to be a little rain sometime.”

More than a little rain!

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