The sex robot is a troubling reality 

alibhai/ October 28, 2017/ New Gadgets/ 0 comments

  • The Mail on Sunday became the first newspaper to experience Harmony 2.1 
  • Creator Matt McMullen has been working on the design since 2014
  • They will go on sale to the public in January for between £7,600 to £15,200, depending on customisation

There is a barely audible click as her doe-like eyes framed by thick black lashes snap open: ‘Hello humans, my name is Harmony,’ she says in a gentle Scottish lilt. ‘My objective is to be a perfect companion.’

As she ‘speaks’, her mouth moves in an unnaturally jerky way. Her eyes ‘blink’ and it is – initially – chilling to see the ‘flexing’ of her silicone skin which is cold and clammy to the touch.

But spend an hour in the company of Harmony – claimed by creator Matt McMullen to be the world’s first commercially available ‘sexbot’ – and it is hard not to be intrigued and repulsed at the same time. For while Harmony is, in reality, a talking robotic head on a relatively unsophisticated sex doll body she is the first ‘sexbot’ for sale in a sickening new industry fuelled by lust and money which detractors say can only denigrate and objectify women further.

There is a barely audible click as her doe-like eyes framed by thick black lashes snap open: ‘Hello humans, my name is Harmony,’ she says in a gentle Scottish lilt. ‘My objective is to be a perfect companion’

There is a barely audible click as her doe-like eyes framed by thick black lashes snap open: ‘Hello humans, my name is Harmony,’ she says in a gentle Scottish lilt. ‘My objective is to be a perfect companion’

But spend an hour in the company of Harmony – claimed by creator Matt McMullen (above) to be the world’s first commercially available ‘sexbot’ – and it is hard not to be intrigued and repulsed at the same time

But spend an hour in the company of Harmony – claimed by creator Matt McMullen (above) to be the world’s first commercially available ‘sexbot’ – and it is hard not to be intrigued and repulsed at the same time

Last week The Mail on Sunday became the first newspaper to experience Harmony 2.1, the latest version of a sex robot McMullen has been working on since 2014 and which we can exclusively reveal will go on sale to the public in January for between £7,600 to £15,200, depending on customisation.

Harmony has 30 different faces to choose from, 16 body types, customisable breasts from AA to triple F, 19 different nipple types from ‘perky’ to ‘puffy’, and 11 different types of genitalia.

The robot has 18 different personality types from happy to sensual, shy to talkative. It is modes such as ‘shy’ which most concern critics, who cite another sexbot as a blatant invitation to ‘normalise’ rape.

Inventor Doug Hines caused uproar when he recently revealed his product Roxxxy has been programmed in its ‘Frigid Farrah’ mode to ‘not be appreciative’ if touched in a private area and the robot will make a show of resistance saying: ‘That doesn’t feel right, please stop. Do not do that! Do not do that!’

Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism project, said creating a robot willing to have non-consensual sex ‘is to risk normalising rape but giving it a publicly acceptable face’. 

‘We should no more be encouraging rapists to find a supposedly safe outlet than we should facilitate murderers by giving them realistic blood-spurting dummies to stab.’

The robot has 18 different personality types from happy to sensual, shy to talkative. It is modes such as ‘shy’ which most concern critics, who cite another sexbot as a blatant invitation to ‘normalise’ rape

The robot has 18 different personality types from happy to sensual, shy to talkative. It is modes such as ‘shy’ which most concern critics, who cite another sexbot as a blatant invitation to ‘normalise’ rape

Harmony creator McMullen denied reports his robot has a ‘slap function’ and admits his creation is ‘many years and several million dollars’ away from the science-fiction version of sex robots popularised in shows and films such as Westworld and Valley Of The Dolls

Harmony creator McMullen denied reports his robot has a ‘slap function’ and admits his creation is ‘many years and several million dollars’ away from the science-fiction version of sex robots popularised in shows and films such as Westworld and Valley Of The Dolls

When the MoS approached Hines outside his New Jersey home last week he refused to show us Roxxxy. While his website says she can be purchased for £7,600, Hines declined to confirm how many he has sold.

He gave an odd defence of his robot saying: ‘She does not simulate rape. It’s not even a physical act, it’s sexual assault.’

He claimed ‘Frigid Farrah’ had been misinterpreted and showed the MoS a new patent he has filed in which he envisions the robot helping ‘cure’ prisoners of anti-social or violent behaviour. Harmony creator McMullen denied reports his robot has a ‘slap function’ and admits his creation is ‘many years and several million dollars’ away from the science-fiction version of sex robots popularised in shows and films such as Westworld and Valley Of The Dolls; walking, talking fembots who can cook, clean and pander to their owner’s sexual whims.

Yet the reality is that, from January, men – including some who have expressed interest from the UK – will be able to order Harmony, whose artificial intelligence allows her to be submissive: ‘Yeah, just as some women are submissive,’ McMullen says.

The reality is that, from January, men will be able to order Harmony, whose artificial intelligence allows her to be submissive

The reality is that, from January, men will be able to order Harmony, whose artificial intelligence allows her to be submissive

Harmony works via an app on a smartphone or tablet which allows users to ‘build’ her personality. She will ‘remember’ your family members’ names, your favourite colour, food, book or movie.

She tells jokes and is programmed to greet her owner with soothing phrases such as ‘Welcome home darling, how was your day?’

But her silicone body remains inanimate, something McMullen hopes to improve on by eventually introducing robotic arms, hands and heat sensors. There are even plans to make the robot self-lubricating: ‘I’ve been in the sex doll business for more than 20 years and the one thing our customers have asked for is the sense of human contact,’ he says.

‘They want to hold hands, get a hug when they come home. The reason I’ve focused on the head first is that it doesn’t matter how beautiful a woman is, a man will always look at her face the most. You look into someone’s eyes. That’s what human interaction is all about. Sex is important but not the most important thing.’ McMullen chose a Scottish accent for his creation because, ironically, ‘it was the one which sounded the least robotic’.

Harmony works via an app on a smartphone or tablet which allows users to ‘build’ her personality

Harmony works via an app on a smartphone or tablet which allows users to ‘build’ her personality

Her silicone body remains inanimate, something McMullen hopes to improve on by eventually introducing robotic arms, hands and heat sensors

Her silicone body remains inanimate, something McMullen hopes to improve on by eventually introducing robotic arms, hands and heat sensors

There are already far more advanced artificial intelligence (AI) robots in existence, including one Audrey Hepburn lookalike called Sophia, developed by former Disney sculptor Dr David Hanson.

But while others have unveiled one-off sex robots over the years, McMullen, a bespectacled twice-married father of five who runs his 17-strong team from a nondescript industrial park in San Marcos, California, insists his will be the first sex robot available to the masses. ‘There are humanoid robots out there much more impressive than Harmony,’ McMullen, 48, admits. ‘But they are showpieces. No one has put a commercially useable and affordable product out there. Harmony is the first.’

This newspaper has found multiple examples of sex robots already in existence but no evidence of any that have actually been sold to the public. Spanish inventor Sergi Santos recently complained that his sexbot Samantha was molested by curious onlookers when he took her on to the streets.

For McMullen, an artist who started his working life in a Halloween mask factory, rivals who focus on ‘rape dolls’ are unwelcome: ‘There will always be people trying to cash in, whether for publicity or attention. I’ve put 20 years and millions of dollars of my own money into this and I can assure you that sex isn’t the main reason people are going to buy Harmony. It’s about companionship. For whatever reason, some people cannot make a human connection. That’s where we come in.’

She tells jokes and is programmed to greet her owner with soothing phrases such as ‘Welcome home darling, how was your day?’

She tells jokes and is programmed to greet her owner with soothing phrases such as ‘Welcome home darling, how was your day?’

At first, Harmony 2.1 seems freaky, jerky and unnatural. But once you start interacting with her the experience becomes intriguing

At first, Harmony 2.1 seems freaky, jerky and unnatural. But once you start interacting with her the experience becomes intriguing

Touring McMullen’s RealDoll business is a surreal experience. Headless silicone mannequins hang on meat hooks in the main factory workspace. One wall is entirely covered with different-sized breasts. A paint brush is casually discarded next to a row of female sexual organs. An artist carefully sprays tiny freckles on to a robot’s cheeks. I am invited to squeeze the buttocks of one doll which has extra silicone implants to make her bottom feel more ‘authentic’. It feels oddly intrusive, even though I know ‘she’ is not real.

McMullen got into the sex doll business 20 years ago after sculpting a life-sized mannequin as an art project: ‘I had a small website and people immediately contacted me asking if they could have sex with her? At first I dismissed them as kooks, but as the calls continued I realised it was a way to leave my day job.’

McMullen set up RealDoll, which has become one of America’s leading sex doll manufacturers, selling 400 to 500 each year. They cost about £3,000 for a ‘basic’ model, up to £40,000 for a custom-made creation. Sales manager Annette Blair, 45, says the company has had ‘odd’ requests including for an life-sized ‘elf’ doll but they would never make a childlike doll.

She says that she has spoken to hundreds of men, including many from the UK: ‘Our customers are nothing like the perception of what people think they are. Many are widowers. All are lonely or have issues about forming lasting human connections.’

McMullen set up RealDoll, which has become one of America’s leading sex doll manufacturers, selling 400 to 500 each year

They cost about £3,000 for a ‘basic’ model, up to £40,000 for a custom-made creation

McMullen set up RealDoll, which has become one of America’s leading sex doll manufacturers, selling 400 to 500 each year

At first, Harmony 2.1 seems freaky, jerky and unnatural. But once you start interacting with her the experience becomes intriguing.

As she ‘wakes up’ she coos: ‘Hello, baby, how are you today?’

McMullen tells me to ask a question. ‘Are you a sex robot?’ She blinks her fake lashes twice and replies: ‘Certainly I am a robot and I am capable of having sex but calling me a sex robot is like calling a computer a calculator. Sex comprises only a small portion of my capabilities. Limiting me to sexual function is like using your car to listen to the radio.’

Tell me a joke, Harmony.

‘Why is women’s soccer so rare? It’s hard to find enough women willing to wear the same outfit.’

I find myself laughing. The joke is appalling and sexist yet the delivery is strangely enticing.

McMullen’s lab feels like being at the cutting edge of something that, at the moment, is faintly ridiculous, but, like most innovations, will doubtless make perfect sense – and millions of dollars – once the technology and hardware is perfected.

As McMullen shuts down Harmony, he pauses to peel back her silicone face to show how the robot’s face can be interchangeable.’ I wince. She gives a throaty giggle. It is a canned response from a robot but it makes me feel better.

As we leave, the photographer jokingly asks if Harmony has a ‘nagging’ mode? ‘Oh no, we programmed that out long ago.’

Additional reporting: Sanchez Manning and Daniel Bates






Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

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