As more people feel emotional connections to artificial lovers, breakdowns can be tragic
What if the one you’ve grown to love—the partner who is always there and listens to you without judgment; the lover who allows you to explore your sexual fantasies; the special friend you can always hug or snuggle—stopped working?
By now, we all should be getting used to, and even accepting, that there is a large number of enthusiasts who can develop deep emotional connections with their love dolls.
Finding their stories, especially here at Future of Sex, has become easy: users who find intimacy in applying makeup to them, experts recognizing how they have become far more than just mechanical devices, and even handy guides to making them more and more lifelike.
Love dolls and sexbots aren’t the only devices subject to intimacy; some people have deep feelings for virtual assistants like Siri or even marry hybrids that combine a physical doll with responsive software.
However, no one seems to be asking that crucial question: what happens when artificial companions break down? Developers should be aware of the emotional impact and should do something to ease the user’s pain.
Updates, system crashes, and bugs
Two recent articles from SoraNews24 bring up this very issue. The first is a report that the GTBX-1, a self-described “character summoning device” for characters Hikari Azuma and Hatsune Miku, will no longer be supported as of March 31.
This could mean that those who haven’t upgraded or prefer the old model to the new one will lose their beloved digital companion.
The good news in this is that Gatebox is releasing an upgrade to its device, and is even offering to replace the old model with this new one, free of charge.
The other article has a much less happy ending. Konami’s LovePlus series of dating simulators have been suffering a disturbing software bug that doesn’t just cause the smartphone version to crash, thus deleting beloved characters, but also leads to something much worse.
The glitch causes the virtual girlfriend to reject the user, after months or even years of interaction, and even crash the game when asking for a virtual hug.
Rejection and deep loss
It’s obvious that these kinds of technical issues can emotionally harm those users who have developed a bond with their artificial companions.
So, we need to consider these situations extremely important in our conversations about sex tech. Manufacturers shouldn’t dismiss what they might consider a minor software problem that can be upsetting, or even traumatic, for their users.
Hopefully, a new level of sensitivity could lead to the industry making this awareness a key part of its development process. Manufacturers could show extra consideration by making their products easily updatable and supportable for more than a few years. If anything should go wrong, they should acknowledge how upsetting this might be for users.
Who knows, maybe they could integrate an emergency protocol for breakdowns that would even be supportive, recognizing that the problem didn’t stem from anything the user had said or done.
Companies could even offer some kind of consolation, such as a month of free service or, better yet, a tender and thoughtful present sent not from the company but from the artificial companion.
There also should be thought put into what happens should a companion, physical or digital, no longer function: when it dies. This could be anything from offering funeral arrangements to a sincerely worded consolation and offer of emotional support, or—taking this even farther—a message from the companion itself, saying something like “I will miss you and our wonderful times together.”
Sex tech developers have to make this important step and accept that their users might emotionally connect with their products, and with this knowledge, take at least some responsibility for users’ well-being should their companion cease to function.
It might be a bit much for a company to handle, or accept, but not doing so sends the signal that their customers’ emotional needs are unimportant—that they are replaceable and unfeeling, just as many would say about their products.
As we’ve said many times: love is love. And, hopefully, when society and sex tech developers open their minds, this won’t apply only to human desire but also to the love we feel for our artificial companions.
Image sources: Gatebox Inc., Matt Brown, Saundra Castaneda