Will we someday live and love vicariously through technology?
“I feel like I have another me out there,” says Kohki of OriHime.
To give some context to this, Kohki is a middle-aged man who’s been paralyzed from the neck down since a swimming pool accident when he was 17.
OriHime, meanwhile, is a puppet-sized robot equipped with a camera, a microphone, some emotive actuators for simple gestures, and a headphone system, all of which allow Kohki to use it as a proxy—and to go on a date with BBC correspondent Stephanie Hegart.
‘My Date With A Robot’
The segment, which is a little less than nine minutes long, touches on several futurist topics, including an artificially intelligent newsreader, robotic preschool assistants, and a machine designed to pick crops all against the backdrop of trying to deal with Japan’s worker crisis.
With a rapidly aging population, and simply not enough people being born to balance it, the solution brought up here is to look to robots and proxies like OriHime to take up the slack.
While the newsreader, the nursery school greeter, and the robotic gardener are interesting, it’s Kohki and his relationship to his little robotic extension that offers up considerable food for thought.
A brand new you
Kohki’s touching experience with OriHime, being able to leave his body behind and walk the streets of Tokyo, is hard to ignore. Here, using this robotic proxy is somebody who’d previously been trapped within the confines of his body but can now travel and even can work a shift in a coffee shop as the video shows.
Through accident or illness, Kohki is hardly alone in his situation. While OriHime is far from perfect, being little more than a slightly sophisticated doll, something like it with a greater range of movement, self-autonomy, and higher resolution sensors is not hard to imagine.
Looking at how fast progress is moving in robotics, and notably with the erotic variety, it’s a pretty safe bet that we’ll be seeing very human-appearing robotic proxies becoming pretty commonplace in only a few years while keeping pace with their stand-alone, artificially intelligent kin.
Multiple bodies, multiple lives
“Why should humans have only one body?” says Kentaro Yoshifuji, the CEO of Ory Laboratory, speaking to Hegart in the video.
Why indeed? The first reason has already been stated: that it’s a way for those challenged by health or mobility concerns to get out into the world comfortably and free of discomfort.
But the other reason is why we’re all here: that having a robotic proxy could be the doorway to a world of practically unlimited erotic pleasures, and the opportunity to expand who, and what we are, as sexual beings.
My other self
With technology like virtual reality, we can project ourselves into a digital illusion of being anyone, or anything, for any purpose—including sexual pleasure.
But while powerful, the immersiveness of still somewhat VR limited. Even adding in things like direct neural-stimulation or haptic tech to give the feeling of touch and being touched, experiences are pretty artificial: trapping the user in a pocket reality divorced from real-time, real-world interactions.
But using a proxy you’ll be able to directly jack yourself in, or just hook up a pair of high-rez goggles with some haptic tech, and step out into the world as it exists at that very instant.
Not only that but you can be whatever you want—within the physical limitations of the tech, of course.
This means you’ll be able to change just about everything about yourself or even wear a body that’s totally different than your real form, including having any combination of sexual characteristics, any height weight, body type, and beyond.
What will happen to sex when your body, your artificial form or forms, is not just totally alterable but also completely disposable? Will we see the rise of destructive sex as a fetish: lovers locked in passionate artificial sexuality as they tumble down into the Marianas Trench or maybe playing cybernetic footsie in a volcano?
And why stop at one body? With a little programming, it might even be possible to merge two separate data streams into someone’s consciousness, allowing people to have sex with more than two—or three or four, or even hundreds—simultaneously.
It might be a tad disorienting but perhaps we could elicit the help of an artificially intelligent cohort to help us sort it all out in our fleshy human consciousness.
Similarly, humans might finally be able to achieve that long-sought-after dream of being able to, excuse the expression, f*ck ourselves: the data from two bodies being recorded and the similarly meshed together into a cohesive mental whole.
Here before we know it
The thing is, a lot of this isn’t that far off.
There’s nothing, for instance, stopping a sex tech pioneer from taking those sensors that are starting to become standard equipment in so many sexbots and linking them to teledildonic gear worn by another person.
Oh, and don’t forget to use VR displays, picked up by the doll’s camera eyes, audio pickups in the ears, a speaker in the mouth and we’re just about there.
That in mind, like so much we discuss and speculate about here at Future of Sex, this kind of technology isn’t just possible but is more than likely inevitable.
And, like other things we’ve looked at, what happens with it, and what it means to human sexuality as well as society as a whole, is up to us.
But for Kohki, and those like him, we truly only hope that does come sooner than later: sexual adventures aside, to be able to open the beauty of the world to so many who otherwise see only one small room.
Image sources: BBC News