David Levy and Adrian David Cheok, founders of the annual Congress on Love and Sex with Robots, assert we’re very close now to creating a sex robot, going as far as to say that such robots will be normalized by 2050. If recent press cycles are any indication, most of us believe this.
But we’re wrong.
That we have made immense progress in a number of disciplines that directly relate to the development of humanoid robots is not in dispute. Over the past few weeks, one of Google’s artificial neural networks has shown that by using reinforcement learning it could best the world champion of Go, an abstract game that is harder than chess. This type of learning-on-the-go has serious implications for robots, which havedifficulty negotiating new terrains, objects and situations.
Likewise, developments in the molding of polymers are revolutionizing the field of soft robotics, allowing robots to better physically deal with real-world dynamic environments and handle objects that fall outside their programming parameters. We’ve even created thin polymer films with built-in sensors that sense pressure and heat, not unlike skin.
But we’re wrong to think that these and so many other other advances will coalesce as easily as people seem to imagine to create a commercially-available, self-aware, humanoid sex robot.
The self-aware humanoid we imagine when we think of a sex robot will need a variety of sensors to have an awareness of its environment. It will need to have a sophisticated artificial intelligence. It will need machine learning to respond to changes and negotiate situations outside its programing. It will need natural-language processing. To overcome the uncanny valley, its movements and expressions will have to be matched to human expectation. Its skin will require nanotechnology to replicate the lifelike lack of uniformity of human flesh, and its eyes will require a different nanotechnology to simulate the wetness of our own.
Sex robots are going to require multiple disciplines to come together because they’re not simply mechanized sleeves or dildos. Unlike a haptic dildo or robotic sleeve, sex robots are not going to be simple enough for a single genius to put together on their own.
But if the hurdles facing haptic dildos, robotic sleeves and other creations within the nascent sextech industry are any indication, we are never going to get to the sex robots at all.