(FOX 26) - We have dreamed about robots for decades.
Slowly, that fantasized future has crept up on us, and it starts with a wall of doe-eyed, open-mouthed heads at the headquarters of Abyss Creations, a leading seller of female, life-sized dolls and soon, robots.
“My dream is to become as smart as a human being with your help,” said “Harmony,” one of the sex robots at Abyss Creations.
“One of the really cool things about this is that the face is modular so if you wanted a different face, you could attach a different face to the same robotic base,” said Matt McMullen, the founder of Abyss Creations and creator of RealDoll.
These sex robots are customizable and can talk with users.
At the heart of these dolls is technology that connects with an app so the user can control the personality.
“An app that will have personality traits that they can customize,” said McMullen. “An app that will remember things about them and to form this sort of illusion of a relationship that can be persistent, so that as you interact over time, the A.I. will remember more and more things about you and bring them up in subsequent conversation.”
Most of the orders for these sex dolls come from within the United States. At the top of the list for the most orders? Washington state and Texas.
The lead Texas reseller of RealDoll is based in Dallas.
“The guy is playing with the toy [that] a female lives inside of,” said Kurt Lassberg, the owner of Bliss Arcade Theater, an adult store in Dallas, and the lead reseller in Texas. “Anytime you play anything, you want to see the reaction.”
He doesn't mince words.
“So when you see the guys passing by you in the grocery store, and they don't say nothing, they're just holding back. That's totally natural. That's totally normal, and that's why dolls are going to be such a big business,” said Lassberg. “Because that is the desire for men.”
Lassberg believes the demand will be so high that future sex robot assembly plants will rival the scope and size of automobile plants.
The hyper-sexualization of these dolls are not without its critics, but the creator defends them, saying these dolls give companionship to those who can't find it.
“I think that that would be the largest segment of our customer base is people that are lonely in some sense or another either by choice or circumstance,” said McMullen. “They can't create a relationship with another person so they're still sort of wanting that and longing for that and the doll becomes an appealing option for them.”
Then, there is the other unapologetic defense.
“It's human nature. That's just the way it is. You study evolution, that's just the way it is. You're just going to have to stop fighting. They are objects, ok? They are designed. You have curves on your body on purpose that will stimulate -- we are hardwired to like those curves,” said Lassberg.
“If someone is getting that level of happiness and satisfaction from owning a doll, and she makes him happy, then who are we to judge?” said McMullen. “It's not hurting anyone else.”
But a robotics ethics fellow argues it does hurt someone else -- women.
“The reason why these dolls exist is because there is a sexist commercial sex trade that basically uses women like sexual property, like sexual objects,” said Kathleen Richardson, the senior research fellow for the Ethics of Robotics at De Montfort University.
The concept is as old as history itself; across the centuries, women as geishas to courtesans have historically been used as sexual commodities. But Richardson sees sex robots as a chokehold on progress and a catalyst to profound dehumanization.
“For me, the doll is a proxy. It’s a stand in for what these kinds of men think about women. They’re not in a relationship with the doll. The makers of the doll say you can have a relationship with the doll. You cant. It's an inanimate object,” said Richardson.
She believes the line between reality and illusion can become so blurred for men-- who are used to their female doll following their every command -- that it can lead them to react abusively when actual human women don’t respond the way their dolls do.
Though these silicone feet don't move yet -- it's only neck up for now -- artificial intelligence is here. What was once fiction is now a full figure in our hands, heavy in its ethical entanglement.
“We will have to become comfortable with the idea of all different kinds of robots, whether they look human or not, are going to be part of lives. They're going to help us. That's what they're there for,” said McMullen.
The starting cost for a sex robot is around $15,000, and they are expected to hit the market in late 2017.