Could robots one day be used to keep the elderly ‘company’ in care homes, or alleviate some of the struggles facing those in long term relationships? According to a report released today by the Foundation for Responsible Robotics (FRR), this could be the case in the next five to ten years. The consultation report, Our Sexual Future With Robots, presented an objective summary of the issues and various opinions about what could be our most intimate association with robots in the foreseeable future.
The authors behind the report believe sex robots could herald a ‘revolution’ in sex, helping people who would otherwise find it hard to have intimate relationships.
However, they also raise concerns that the use of bots could increase the objectification of women, alter perceptions of consent and be used to satisfy desires that would otherwise be illegal.
There are currently four manufacturers of lifelike robotic dolls worldwide, but experts predict this figure could soon rise, as the dolls are used not just as a fetish, but as sexual therapy and companions for lonely, disabled or older people.
Speaking at the launch of the new consultation report in central London, Noel Sharkey, Emeritus Professor of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Sheffield, and co-founder of the FRR, said: “I can tell you that robots are certainly coming.
“The concern is that this is going on nobody is talking about it. People snigger about them, but they are actually shipping quite a lot and we are going to see them a lot more.
“They are being proposed for the elderly in care homes, which I think is controversial. If you have severe Alzheimer’s you can’t really tell the difference.
“We need to think about, as a society, what we want to do about it.”
Among the dolls currently available is the RoxxxyGold, which has caused controversy because of a selectable mode – Frigid Farah – in which its personality is described as ‘reserved and shy’.
In a paper published earlier this year, the manufacturer claimed that if 'you touched her in a private area, more than likely, she will not be to[o] appreciative of your advance', leading some to claim that it is indulging rape fantasies.
Another major question discussed in the report is whether sex robots will change societal perceptions of gender. With the advent of pornography, robots are often designed on these images of women, resulting in a heightened perception that women are subordinate to men and simply exist to please.
As sex robots become slightly more prevalent, it is important for us not to lose sight of reality. Despite recent advances, sex robots still lack a human feel. Sharkey explained: "I can't see them as being like humans in the next 50 years. They will always be slightly spooky, and their conversation skills now are awful.”