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Sex robots 101: Everything you need to know about sexbots

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Sex robots (or ‘sexbots’) have captured the imagination of people (largely men) in one form or another for decades, if not centuries. With a recent surge of sensationalist media in more recent years around sex robots, we thought SEXTECHGUIDE readers deserved some proper information – charting the myths, realities, controversies and questions you might have about sex robots.

If you’re reading this, the chances are you want to find out more about the reality of sex robots. Once the stuff of sci-fi legend, it seems the reality of a robot lover is getting closer every day.

In 2016, Noel Sharkey, former advisor to the United Nations on robotics, said sex robots would be mainstream by 2026. In the years since, debate about the ethics of sex robots has been active. Should these innovations be celebrated as sophisticated tools for sexual pleasure, or do these lifelike qualities indicate the beginning of the end for the future of human relationships?

From Japan’s specialist VR booths to Houston’s potential for robot brothels, the sex industry has always posed questions of technology that aren’t necessarily comfortable for people to accept.

We’ve built this page to be your go-to sex robot resource. It’ll always have the latest news and information about sexbots and our relationship to them.

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What is a Sex Robot?

You could argue that something like a Fleshlight Launch is already a type of ‘sex robot’. You could equally argue that any vibrator could also be considered a sex robot. However, for most people, the term refers to quite a specific vision: a humanoid robot built exclusively for sex.

For some people, artificial intelligence would also be a necessity – to make the experience as ‘realistic’ as possible, whereas some DIY efforts (there are many such projects – you can see a lot of them in the already dated documentary ‘My Sex Robot‘ from 2010) simply aim to vaguely replicate the mechanics of sex i.e. robotic thrusts. The end result isn’t going to get you anywhere close to the uncanny valley though.

While some people might accept mechanical movement of existing sex dolls as a sex robot, many of the keenest advocates couldn’t accept that sort of conceptual decoupling – that a sex robot that can’t speak, react, flirt and otherwise act ‘human’ isn’t really a sexbot at all.

History of Sex Robots

While much of the current focus on sex robots is replicating a human equipped with AI that’s capable of carrying off a conversation and fulfilling your sexual needs, the use of ‘sex robots’ is arguably as historical as it is futuristic.

“The relationship between humans and their artificial counterparts runs right back to the myths of ancient Greece, where sculptor Pygmalion’s statue was brought to life with a kiss. It is the stuff of legend and of science fiction – part of our written history and a part of our imagined future.”Kate Devlin, Senior Lecturer in Social and Cultural Artificial Intelligence at King’s College, London.

A Beginning

The most familiar form of the story comes from Ovid’s poem Metamorphoses, first published in 8 A.D. which depicts Pygmalion as a sculptor that carves an ivory woman that he then falls in love with and wishes into animated life. In a very direct way, this basic story still informs the conversation around sex robots today, and brings up the same questions around ethics, appearance and ‘sentience’.

What is in no doubt is that this narrative is a male-driven one that aims for a sex doll to replicate a human female, rather than taking on a more abstract form.

20th Century

The term ‘robot’ itself comes from the Czech word ‘slave’ and was first used to describe robots as we know them in the 1920s science fiction play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) by Czech playwright Josef Capek.

Though the robots in R.U.R. took on a typically masculine form, the fembot (or gynoid) trope followed soon after. In the 1927 silent film, Metropolis the main female character literally becomes a robot. While she was not explicitly a built for sex, the idea of woman as robot has influenced much of the narrative up to today.

The swinging sixties saw fembots on the rise on US television screens. The TV sitcom My Living Doll (1964) had Rhoda Miller (AKA. AF709) learning human emotions and behavior at the directions of her creator’s friend, Dr. Bob Miller.

Novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1967) by Philip K Dick which based the plot for the 1982 (and 2017) films Blade Runner, had advanced robots of multiple genders, called replicants. However, the female replicants are exceptionally sexualized in both the book and the films. Pris is known as a ‘basic pleasure model’, and femme fatale character Rachael is pursued (and raped) by protagonist Rick Deckard.

Satirical thriller The Stepford Wives (1972), is a novel made into a film in 1975 (and then again in 2014). It features eerily submissive women who turn out to be subservient fembots designed to replace these husbands’ wives.

Post-apocalyptic cyberpunk sci fi film, Cherry 2000 (1987) had the protagonist’s gynoid-wife malfunction during sex, which sent him on a quest for the perfect replacement bot, perpetuating the idea that women are merely objects that can be replaced.

Even comedies like Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)squeezed AI-equipped fembots into its plot.

21st Century Sex Robots

Films like AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001) managed to explicitly include both male and female sexbot prostitutes in the form of Gigolo Joe and Gigolo Jane.

Robot prostitutes and sexbot brothels, as also predicted by David Levy in his 2007 book Love and Sex with Robots do little to allay fears of mechanical lovers disrupting sex and relationships as we know them today.

2007’s Lars and the Real Girl, sees a softer side of the narrative. One that evokes empathy and understanding for “doll lovers”. We see Ryan Gosling fall in love with his sex doll, Bianca, a RealDoll to be precise.

The movie brought a touching awareness to the therapeutic capabilities that dolls and robots can provide for people with social anxiety, or people that find it difficult to form intimate relationships with others.

In 2013 Joaquin Phoenix starred as a lonely lead in the romantic sci-fi film, Her, painting a picture of what sex could be like with a disembodied robot – imagine phone sex with Siri.

He falls in love with his artificially intelligent iOS, seductively voiced by sex symbol Scarlett Johansson. Eventually, the operating systems all surpass human intelligence and form connections with each other, leaving our protagonist (among many others) alone again.

Humans is a more recent British TV series (2015-2018) that explores the impact of introducing a perfect human replica in every home. The obligatory episode that covers the issue of human/robot sex is also present. Through this we see the subsequent impact on human relationships, including both the father and son making advances on the robot.

The notion of consent is touched upon, though not investigated in depth – the narrative depicted 
does perpetuate the notion of robots that are capable of sexual acts (ie. not explicitly made as sex robots) are ultimately considered ‘owned’, and are objects of sexual gratification.

Perhaps a more acute image of the discussion around human interaction with robots comes in HBO’s 2016 adaptation of the 1973 Westworld. Set in a wild, wild western amusement park fashioning saloons and brothels alike, the modern adaptation is acutely aware of its problematic nature.

The interactions between humans and robots are based on violence and control. This results in little more than a disdain for humanity itself.

What sex robots exist

Over the past few years, there have been more headlines about sex robots, but not many more actual robots for sale.

What started out as hobbyists has grown into a fledgling industry – but one that still has some technical challenges to overcome in its future.

Nonetheless, they are being overcome currently.

Early Attempts

Andy

In 2005, German aircraft mechanic, Michael Harriman developed a sex doll called Andy. She was developed to have artificial breath, so that during sex she pants faster, and her artificial heart beats harder.

Internal heaters raise her body temperature – except the feet which stay cold. Via a remote control she could wiggle her hips, which, while not the peak of robotics was a basic approximation. Though Andy does not appear to exist anymore, the sensory features she touted are now gradually on the edge of existence in retail models.

Samantha

Founder of Synthea Amatus, Sergei Santos’ says his sex robot, Samantha “needs to be romanced first”.

Similarly to Roxxxy, she can switch between 8 personalities, from ‘family mode’ to ‘sexy mode’.  Unfortunately, it’s a project that appears to have been abandoned around 2017.

What are the best sex robots to buy now?

Harmony

RealDoll/Abyss Creations

Abyss Creations, aka RealDoll.com, has been developing the technology behind the first AI sex robot for more than 10 years. Harmony is probably one of the most well-known robots on offer, making headlines for being capable of conversation, movement and remembering what the user likes and dislikes. Abyss is currently developing sensors so Harmony can respond to touch, internally heat and self-lubricate. As such, Harmony is currently one of the most lifelike products on offer, and is paving the way for more prototypes of sex robots.

In January 2018, Abyss Creations unveiled its new Solana doll, which has a peelable face for total customisation. Some people into sex with robots, have a fetish for the technological elements and may have sex with the face half peeled off. These are called technosexuals and commonly refer to the people who enjoy having sex with their cars, etc.

Driven by AI technology, Harmony features a modular head system with 10 points of movement, meaning it can form expressions, move its eyebrows and open its mouth to speak to you.

Realbotix is the technology firm driving Harmony’s AI app software, ‘the brain’ which gives the user the freedom to fully customise Harmony’s personality and control the voice of the robot. Harmony’s eye movements are synced with the app and built-in cameras are in development.

However, it’s only the face that has animatronic parts currently – although the body can be assembled in multiple positions.

Roxxy

True Companion

TrueCompanion‘s offering is the Roxxxy sex robot, which can hold a conversation with its user, and has AI capabilities. Roxxxy has several different personality options, including ‘S&M Susan’, ‘Wild Wendy’, and ‘Mature Martha’ (who prefers to talk more than physically interact).

More controversial personas include ‘Young Yoko’ who “is very naive but curious and models an 18+ year old personality” and ‘Frigid Farah’, who “does not always like to engage in intimate activities”. Though Douglas Hines, founder and president of the company, explains it was never his intention. The “young” and “frigid” settings have received a lot of backlash for promoting paedophilia and ‘rape culture’.

Nevertheless, the name TrueCompanion is based on the company founder’s original aims. New Jersey software engineer Douglas Hines originally started designing sex dolls in the 1990s with lonely or widowed men in mind.

“The physical act of sex will only be a small part of the time you spend with a sex robot – the majority of time will be spent socialising and interacting.” – Douglas Hines

Abyss Creations and TrueCompanion seem to be currently leading the way in terms of sexbot development, but it won’t long before other companies move into the mainstream.

Other FAQs About Sex Robots

Sex robot videos

If you’re curious to see how sex robots work, before you invest your money and physical energy, you can find thousands of clips on sites like PornHub and YouPorn. Porn site CamBot launched ‘Cardi-Bot’ – the world’s first sex robot you can live cam with for free.

If you’re simply interested in the technology side, Vice journalist Karley Sciortino meets RealDoll’s Harmony in one of the videos below.

The world’s first male sex doll

My Sex Robot

Meet Harmony the sex robot

Inside the Uncanny Valley

Sexbot Controversies

Will sex robots replace human sex and love?

What about sex robots as a form of therapy?

Can you explore sex with robots without the robots?

Sex robot ethics and morality

Sex robot news

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