After a disappointing trajectory in the growth of virtual reality porn, sex tech watchers began 2018 with hopes that it would be the year that sex robots were finally going to become a thing. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting as we welcome in another New Year. Widespread relief that an infamous ‘teledildonics’ patent had finally expired in 2018 was tempered by the evolving ‘smart sex toy’ industry being caught up in the general societal concern at privacy issues relating to personal data and how tech companies use it to analyse big data. It’s fair to say that 2018 began with a lot of hope for sex tech, but expectations were not matched by reality. Despite this, there did seem to be a growing awareness in wider society that we could be on the cusp of a new kind of sexual revolution in which love and intimacy will be transformed by novel and digital based sex technologies. In fact, a new word came into use to describe this – digisexuality.
Here’s the first part of a review of the big events and notable trends of the last year in the world of future sex technology. Today, we’ll take a look at whether sex robots lived up to the hype in 2018.
Sex Robots – Harmony Is Still Promising She’ll Be Ready For Mankind… Soon
A steady stream of hype surrounding ‘sexbots’ had been building up as we went into 2018. In fact, the media attention and anticipation was getting so big for such forthcoming sex robots as ‘Harmony’ from RealBotix, that there was papers and books being published on the implications and dangers of robot human love (robophilia) and even an organized and growing movement to ban such sexbots.
However, not for the first time in the field of sex tech in recent years, the reality did not live up to the hype. Mat McCullen’s much trumpeted Harmony was originally due to go on sale in early 2018. Then it was pushed back to the summer, and as we start 2019, we still being told that she is ‘nearly ready for commercial release’. There have been many videos of Harmony ‘in action’, and she does appear to be close to completion. Something, however, is clearly holding back the final release.
The situation seems little better for Harmony’s chief rival, Samantha, created by Barcelona based sex doll entrepreneur Sergi Santos and his company Synthea Amatus. Equally hyped, there is still no Samantha on sale.
We have Suffered From A Decade of Hype Surrounding Sex Robots
Of course, we’ve been down this road before to the oft promised land of sexbots. It is now an incredible nine years ago that ‘the world’s first sex robot’ was revealed to an amused world by Douglas Hines. Looking like a deceased and stuffed transvestite, Roxxxy (True Companion) could do not much else apart from utter a few pre-recorded messages. (Come to think of it, the current promised ‘next generation of ‘sex robots’ can do little more). Despite this, Hines was soon claiming that he had taken ‘hundreds of thousands’ of orders for his creation. Nine years later, and nobody can find any evidence that a single Roxxxy was sold to a happy buyer.
It might appear fitting that the year started with immense hype over sex robots, and ended with the annual ‘Love and Sex with Robots’ conference being (for the second time) being cancelled due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’.
Groundless Hype Over Sex Robots (And Sex Tech In General) Is Dangerous
The danger of sex robots, or any sex tech, being hyped long before they are a real thing, ready for the consumer market, is a real danger. This is because any potentially revolutionary new sex technology will inevitably provoke moral panic on the back of any hype, and if the hype is not real, what we might be left with is badly executed knee-jerk reaction legislation before society has gotten used to the new sex tech, in this case sex robots. There is a very real danger that politicians, pressured by lobby groups and moral guardians, will enact legislation to regulate or even ban sex robots, while understanding even less about the product they are regulating than the general public do – because the things don’t even exist yet.
This situation is not helped by not only marketers over-hyping their creations, but appearing to have little or no understanding of how to deal with the moral concerns. Worse, perhaps even seeing those concerns as merely an opportunity to grab yet more media attention. As with the ‘sex robot’ of Sergi Santos, which as the #MeToo hysteria reached it’s peak this summer, was quick to announce that his ‘Samantha’ had been equipped with a ‘consent mode’ given her the ‘ability to say no’. Perhaps #MeToo had made him realize that a story earlier in the year claiming that his sex robot had been ‘molested’ by visitors to an Austrian tech exhibition might not have been such good publicity after all.
The same can be said for virtual reality porn, which similarly has been hyped massively over the last few years, hype which it has not lived up to, although at least VR porn is very much a thing at this stage (we will review VR porn in a couple of days time here).
We Need A Definition Of What A True Sex Robot Is
It might help to have an agreed definition of what a real sex robot is. What separates such an authentic robot from merely a ‘smart sex doll’, which is what most of the ‘sex robots’ on sale currently, and even promised in the near term, seem to be? One obvious criteria would be movement. There has to be some capacity for autonomous movement on the part of the sex robot. Without movement, a ‘sex robot’ that can adjust its temperature, respond with moans to touch, or tell you what her favorite movie is, is no more than a smart sex doll. The requirement would be for more than rudimentary facial movement (such as moving eyelids) and perhaps a degree of real autonomous whole body movement (something which, given their present weight at least, is likely many years away).