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‘She should be nice, not talking sex’: Saudi Sara shuns salacious subjects

Whenever a humanoid robot with a decent amount of realism is shown off, there are always discussions in certain sectors about its potential as a sex robot. Just ask Elon Musk, who has suggested that the forthcoming Tesla Bot could one day serve as a ‘companion’ robot. Or perhaps don’t, as he’s a questionable source of information at the best of times.

Humanoid robots’ capacity for hanky-panky also came to the fore at the DeepFest conference in Riyadh recently, when a Saudi Arabia-built male robot was accused of ‘sexually assaulting’ a female reporter when the robot’s hand moved and touched her posterior.

The company behind the male robot, QSS AI & Robots, was quick to say that this action was not in fact assault, as it was just a basic, albeit unfortunately positioned, hand movement from a piece of machinery. It looks like sex is very much off the cards for the female humanoid robot the firm has also unveiled, too, which is to be expected in a country in which pornography is illegal, and sex toys are classed as pornographic material.

QSS AI & Robots has launched Sara, a robot modeled on a 25 year-old woman who wears a traditional Saudi abaya: a modest robe-like dress. She also has her hair covered, although head coverings are not mandatory in the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia.

Elie Metri, CEO of QSS AI & Robots, told Business Insider that although Sara was equipped with an AI speech system, she was programmed to not discuss sex. “She should be nice, not talking politics, not talking sex because we’re in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “It shouldn’t go into those topics.”

The company’s male robot was described as “the first Saudi robot in the form of a man”, and Metri was adamant that by touching the reporter’s backside it hadn’t crossed an ethical line.

“Sexual assault is totally different from a robot hand touching the jacket of a lady. The weirdness is that in the whole Middle East, even in Saudi Arabia, no one saw this as bad because they know it’s a robot,” he said.

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In 2017, Saudi Arabia claimed to be the first nation to give citizenship to a robot, when it awarded a Hong Kong-built humanoid robot named Sophie citizenship. While the move was largely seen as a PR stunt to attract robotics and AI companies to the country, many people have questioned whether robots should be given citizenship.

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Jamie F
Jamie F

Jamie is a freelance writer, contributing to outlets such as The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, CNN and Vice, among others. He is also the creative force behind the Audible podcast Beast Master.

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