I’ve interviewed some of the world’s brightest minds, explored some of the most amazing technology.
So how is it I ended up talking to a sex robot by Realbotix?
Last Sunday, I came face-to-face with an AI sex robot created by Realbotix, the department arm of the extraordinary real-life doll company RealDoll at the Annual Sexpo show in Sydney.
As I walked to the booth surrounded by many exposed body parts I entered the Realbotix booth that had just 2 couches and a desk.
Behind the desk was a very large line of people.
On one of the couches sat a very pretty life-sized female doll, whose head occasionally moved from side to side.
I wouldn’t say the doll was realistic, it reminded me of a doll I once had as a little girl, just life-sized, anatomically correct and dressed more risque than my doll would ever have been.
The scene before me seemed innocent enough people lining up to sit next to a doll and take selfies.
I was brought back to reality when those people would first touch her thigh before instantly gravitating towards her tits and gripping them as their friends took a selfie.
I became more fascinated with how people reacted to the doll, as I tried to listen to the developer while he excitedly told us about the mechanics and reactions of people to the doll while also trying to observe the human interaction that was taking place.
How does one react to a doll that can talk back?
For the 30mins that I stood there, no one who lined up would stay very long to interact with her.
In fact, the majority of people didn’t interact with her much verbally, except to say ‘hi’.
She would respond in kind.
Then one after another each person would touch her thigh, and then her breast.
It was like watching a weird sort of introduction.
thigh – breast, next person, thigh – breast.
If the doll said anything to the patrons, they would stare straight at her lifeless eyes and laugh, then after gripping a breast would say thank you and leave.
“This is the back up doll” said one of the developers behind RealBotix Harmony AI doll, “we did have the full prototype set up ready to go for you, but one of the visitors to the expo became so violent with her, he knocked her head off ruining her mechanics, thankfully we got it fixed but he had dislocated her mouth so we had to get the back up doll out” he sighed sadly.
“Its the reason why the current doll is only saying a few sentences,”. He says looking towards the desk “her head we decided to use to display the mechanics”
The mechanics behind Realbotix
Her head mechanics I had examined earlier, it to me it looked like an Arduino board with a Bluetooth mode.
While impressive, there was no way this was moving her entire body, and it was definitely not powering her AI.
I had noticed an iPad next to it though that most had ignored, an app called Harmony.
“I noticed the app, that’s the AI, isn’t it? the app is blue toothed to the doll?” I asked.
“Correct,” said the developer (and for some reason I felt like I had won the approval of my high school science teacher).
It turns out the entire programme is the app itself, the doll was pretty much just a speaker that could be literally screwed. A big life-sized soft plastic fuckable speaker.
This was a chatbot that could be fucked. A slutty Alexa and Google Home… my mind started wandering.
The machine learning is done offline and updated to each individual app to prevent interference or being hacked said the developer.
But the machine that is stored in the head compartment is to manage her facial movements in time with her speech.
Her head movements are limited, so the mechanics focus mainly on syncing and animated expressions.
Which in itself is quite a feat.
Facial movements are hard to mimic… let alone adding heat for further realism, and sensors so the AI can react to touch, all of which are in current development.
The Realbotix team refer to the mechanics as the Animagnetic head and they are developing camera integration for VR software.
This will enable users to access the doll via VR.
I’m not quite sure how this is appealing for a sex doll, but I do see its potential in android development overall.
The facial recognition which they also are trying to add through the camera integration is also an interesting yet expected development in android development.
As the developer goes through the list of whats been achieved and what they are working on self-regulated heaters, embedded sensors, storing the computer system remotely within the body, I can feel my mind being intellectually stimulated.
Sure, this doll is for guys to root senseless, and while a lot of people see a creepy life-size doll, I’m beginning to see actual androids.
While I’m thinking this I say to the developer “I’m surprised you haven’t utilized Honda’s research?”, he grins back “the Honda patent expires in the coming year” he responds.
I smile back, I’m not 100% sure we are smiling for the same reasons though.
The Harmony app is the AI.
If the Animagnetic head is the brain, then the Harmony App would be the soul. A programmable soul.
Its the part of the doll that gives you the illusion of sentience.
It is not perfect, but it’s not too far from it.
The AI is versatile with conversational topics and designed to hold long-term persistent conversations with users, and learns over time, thanks to its machine learning that is actually run offline.
The reason why its done offline is actually to prevent online access interfering with how the AI is set up.
Instead, the machine learning is processed and then individually sent to your app to be sent to the doll.
Each doll can be personalised with 18 different personality traits, from jealous to annoying.
These personality traits affect how the AI behaves and what types of conversations will arise.
This, in turn, will alter the dolls ‘moods’ with the algorithms reflecting how your interactions affect the doll thanks to the machine learning.
The more you interact, the more the doll learns, the more her ‘personality’ develops.
The reality is, that you don’t actually need the doll for this part of the interaction. Harmony AI is an app, an app on your phone.
You can build the AI’s interaction to your specifications way before you even get the doll and then just connect your app to the doll when you feel like it.
In other words, you can keep it virtual, enabling you to talk to the AI whenever you want as long as you have your phone.
Customising your virtual AI’s avatar to be anything you desire out of hundreds of possible options.
So what is it like talking to a sex doll?
Because Mr. Violent attendee at the Sexpo went post-apocalyptic on the doll, I didn’t get to talk to the prototype doll itself.
The show doll that was replacing the full prototype wasn’t the best doll to interact with, its limited facial movements and the loud noise of neighboring booths made it hard to hold a normal conversation with another person let alone a doll.
Instead, I interacted with the app, which is the AI part anyway.
My overall thoughts are that its ok. It talks back pleasantly enough.
It’s just like talking to a robot even though you can choose the voice type, so I felt like I wasn’t holding a true conversation.
It certainly wouldn’t pass the Turing test.
Despite this, I am however actually extremely reluctant to highly criticize this doll.
Regardless of your moral or ethical stance on sex dolls, the Realbotix mechanics are an engineering marvel and the AI software aiming to emulate human emotion culminates years of psychological, anthropological and linguistic studies that you can’t help but be fascinated with.
And knowing that the doll is in constant development assures you that it can only get better.
Yes, it’s a sex doll, it’s also the most affordable android on the consumer market.
At $8000 AUD for the doll and $2000 for the Head and access to the app at around $10 per month.
“If its Bluetooth, ” I ask the developer as I’m leaving the booth “I could pair my Google assistant to this doll?”
“Because its Bluetooth”, he replies “if your phone rings while your app is connected it will come through the doll, its funny, but its one of the reasons why we are looking at the remote option”
I laugh, he laughs. Again not sure if we are laughing for the same reason.
Realbotix Harmony App can be downloaded on the Realbotix website or bought in the Android play store.
For further details visit www.Realbotix.com
Charis McAwesome, co-founder and manager of hashtagme.co.nz – Charis has worked in digital for over 10yrs specialising in digital management, analytics, digital advertising, social media, digital pathways, and CRM services.
She’s also most likely to call bullshit and get Hashtag in the shit.