Sex Robot? Humans Get Aroused When Touching Robots.
Please touch my buttocks,” the robot says. A sex robot? Could this be real? And…what happens with the uncanny valley in the “sex robot” equation?
The robots of these days can see the world around them. Can move their bodies, can interact with people in ways that are similar to the ways we, real people interact with each other.
However, a robot’s “human-ness” is, at least for now, just a simulation. It is a combination of A.I. and hardware. It is shaped to make us think that a glorified box of circuits is a little bit of a human person. We are great at tricking ourselves to the point where what we feel it starts to get quite odd.
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“Touching A Mechanical Body.” The Research
Researchers from Stanford University have released a paper with the title “Touching a Mechanical Body.” The study shows that when the NAO robot asks us to touch its butt, we get uncomfortable.
Backup video here.
It is a strange feeling because NAO does not have a bum in the traditional sense of the word. Even if it did, it is just a robot that does not care when or where you touch it. So what is going on here?
“People are not built to differentiate between technology and humans. Thus, primitive responses in human physiology can be elicited by robots just as they would by real people.”
The study is straightforward: The human subject connects to a sensor that measures the level of arousal. Then, the person is left in the room, alone with the NAO robot. The student is the asked, by the robot, to place his non-dominant hand on some parts of its plastic body.
Measurements come flowing. Then, NAO asks the subject again to use the dominant hand, the one without the sensor, to touch again certain parts of its body.
The anatomical regions of the body are scored by their level of accessibility. Or, better said on how often, you touch other people in those areas. For example, high accessibility areas are the hands, arms, forehead, and the neck.
“Low Accessibility Areas.” Pointing To A Sex Robot Concept?
Low accessibility areas include (no surprise here) the inner thighs, breasts, bum, and the genital area. So here are the results of this research as described by the students in their papers:
“Touching less accessible regions of the robot was more arousing than touching usual parts like the hands and the feet. There are no physiological arousal changes when the user is only pointing to those same anatomical regions.”
In conclusion, people get uncomfortable and do not want to touch these low-accessibility areas on a humanoid robot. The researchers also suggest that the cause of this may be the primitive response to “human-ness” able to take over the logic of our brains telling us that it is just a robot.
People are not built to differentiate between humanoids and humans. We are embedded to treat the “close enough to human” medias as humans. We treat it like real, living humans. It is not an “act of playing along” but a real reaction that occurs at a deep, physiological level.
The question is where that “close enough” point is. Jamy Li, who conducted the study along with Wendy Ju and Byron Reeves, think that there are different degrees of human likeness and different ways it would affect how people react to the robot.
With A Different Design, There Is No Arousal, No Sex Robot
For example, the results would be different with a robot of a different design, and different when the robot is interacting with the human in a different way. However, the research brings up many positive suggestions for the robot designers.
People might feel comfortable interacting with humanoid robots in the majority of social contexts, where the touch buttons are placed on the hands and forehead as opposed to buttons that are on the chest or bum parts of their body.
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However, Dr. Angelica Lim, a software engineer at Aldebaran Robotics has a different perspective on this research. “I touch Pepper’s butt all the time,” she said referring to the robot. “It is weird at first, but then you get used to it. You just get used to it, because it is not a human, it is a robot.”
She also points out that the context has a significant importance in the way people react to robots. “We grab NAO’s bum when we move it around in the lab, like a baby. So that is fine. But, when the humanoid is on its feet, with the shoulders back, staring at you and talking, you give the robot a higher I.Q. level. You infuse it with maturity and recreate the social norms that we have between us, the humans.”
Campaign Against The Sex – The Results Are Worrying
A spokesman for the “Campaign Against Sex Robots” insists that the arousal level was “more than just skin conductance and reaction time. Does the paper uncover the Pavlovian dog view of human sexuality? In the light of the results, it is important to understand the relationships we might develop with the robots in the future. While robots are not humans, it seems that the social conventions apply to the robots as well not just us, the humans.
There is no doubt that the humanoid robots are getting closer to us, both in appearance and their actions. Is this just another problem to deal with or can we use the findings for better? Sex robots? Is this the next porn industry? Is the “sex robot” going to solve the paedophilia problem? How ethical is to use a sex robot, regardless of its “age”?
Can I touch you Miss/Mr. Robot? Explain This, Uncanny Valley! I need some answers here; please leave your comments below.