If you can get past the skin-soft silicon, the oversexualised mouth, the transparent nightie and uncomfortably-separated thighs, Douglas Hines latest invention could offer some interesting insight into the way games interact with people.
But there’s no getting around the awkward facts of the former Bell Labs Artificial Intelligence researcher’s creations: Roxxxy and Rocky are a couple of talking, touch-sensitive, anatomically correct sex robots. The thing that separates them from their inflated and silicon brethren are their personalities, Hines says.
“What we’re trying to do here is replicate many emotional states,” Hines tells me. “Not just erotic, but also laughing, sleeping, you know, tired, all of those. You cannot create the intonations in a computer generated program to make it sound like somebody is tired, so we had to build a library of voice files that provide what is required to create the level of realism we are looking for.”
We’re at the annual AVN adult entertainment expo, standing in Hines’ booth which is tastefully decorated with lace curtains and battery-powered faux candles, there’s a couch. On it rests the crown jewel of Hines research efforts: Roxxxy. She was created with the help of folks who have a deep understanding of animatronics and have worked with the likes of Disney and the Muppets. Roxxxy was modelled after a New York art student and then amply “improved” by Hines and his team.
Both robots come with a set of five personalities, but Hines says that the key to Roxxxy and Rocky’s AI is the personality designed specifically for each customer. When a person buys one of the $US7000 to $US9000 bots they fill out a form listing their interests. It’s sort of like the application at a dating service, he says.
“Before you receive her you fill out a profile of what you like,” he said. “We have a patent around our AI methodology that uses a profile as part of the data input. With that information she then knows that you like soccer, that you like U2, that you like The Beatles. She is then able to interact with you on those topics.”
The robots come preloaded with recordings of the thousand most popular male names and the thousand most popular female names. If yours isn’t on the list they add it before shipping the bot out.
“She carries on conversations, they’re not in-depth Turner-class qualifying where you can think it’s a real person,” Hines said. “No, let’s be real.
“We tried our best to replicate a human interaction with as much conversational ability as possible with the physical attributes that people require.”
And Hines’ robots aren’t just being crafted for sex, there is also a line being developed as personality-driven companions for the elderly or people unable to leave their home.
“We actually have another product for elder care,” Hines said. “If she was able to talk with a loved one at home, a father, mother that is housebound, that is pretty cool. Everyone is working, everyone is busy and sometimes we feel bad that we can’t be with our loved ones to help them. This product will help us fill that gap.”
The third product that Hines and his company, True Companion, are working on is a bit of a secret. But it’s tied to video games.
“I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, but there is actually something we are doing with a very big gaming company around her, a way of interaction,” Hines tells me. “I don’t know when they are going to make it public. It will probably be under True Companion’s banner, it’s really exciting.”
Hines guesses that the news will hit in the second quarter of the year.
“A lot of the virtual worlds are really cool, a lot of great work is being done there,” he said, hinting that the product will bridge the gap between online friends and someone you can game with side-by-side. “We are actually collaborating with a few of those companies. That’s exciting and we are looking forward to adopting their best practices and they’re looking at what we’re doing because we’re kind of where the rubber hits the road… literally.”
Hines enthusiasm for the real-life potential of artificial intelligence seems to keep him oblivious to his surroundings. The tiny booth and its sex robot are sandwiched between the prostitutes of The Mustang Ranch cavorting on a saddle strapped to a saw horse, and a tanned, bleach-blond man hawking the latest in 3D pornography.
Occasionally curious men roam into the booth to inspect Roxxxy. Hines seems perturbed when they touch her.
“Don’t mess with the head or hair, everything else is fine,” he shouts at a man posing with his robot for a photo.
Roxxxy’s arm, soft to the touch, is underlaid with what feels to be a steel skeleton. Hines interrupts our interview to explain to a man fondling the doll that she comes in either a hard or soft body. Hines says he likes the hard because it lasts longer. He then suggests that the man explore her anatomy. Roxxxy, packed with all of that trademarked artificial intelligence, silently looks on, mouth slightly agape.