Robot strippers have arrived and nerds everywhere are jostling for position
A faceoff between humans and robots was always inevitable, but nobody ever imagined it would be like this. Most of us thought it would involve guns blazing, flying machinery and poisonous chemicals. Instead, it includes garter-wearing mechanoids gyrating on stage, with their real-life scantily-clad counterparts wrapping their legs around their own poles mere metres away. The battle has begun.
Although it sounds like a bizarre, offbeat sketch comedy, this scenario was, in fact, a reality at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, where nerds, technology fanatics and other curious onlookers gathered as robot strippers took to the stage in Las Vegas at the Sapphire Gentleman's Club. If you needed any further confirmation that the world is a very strange place, here it was.
The robot strippers, with bodies made out of scrap metal, CCTV cameras for heads, and windscreen wiper motors to power, were built by British artist Giles Walker, who claimed that he wanted to “do something sexy with rubbish”. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the world's gathering place for all those who thrive on the business of consumer technologies has served as the proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies for 50 years now, and has seen some truly marvellous and bizarre things along the way. This includes but is not limited to: robot puppies, an internet-connected toilet that tracks every bowel movement you make and now, robot strippers. But what did the onlookers make of them? Were the sultry robo-twins - due to hit New York next - actually that sexy?
“Come watch sparks fly as the robo-twins gyrate on the pole, shake their hardware and leave everyone wondering if those double D's are real or made in ‘Silicone’ Valley,” boasted the official website for the Sapphire Las Vegas club. Yet, despite the hype, crowds of eager onlookers and robotic double D breasts, it was reported that many of those present actually looked a little bored with the gyrating machines, which only appeared to have a limited selection of moves to wow eyewitnesses.
However, their creator has claimed in numerous interviews that the main purposes of creating them wasn't particularly to arouse leery spectators. Although there is always talk in the news of machines putting humans out of work, they weren't actually designed to challenge us; despite being put side-by-side on stage to fight it out with their real-life equivalents, they were reportedly part of a wider installation, intended to showcase how machines are often ill-used for surveillance and voyeurism.
“At the time [when I made them], they were putting CCTV cameras up all around London, and Britain was becoming the most surveilled society in the world,” said Walker. “So I was playing with this idea of voyeurism, and who has the power in that relationship; whether it’s the voyeur or the person being watched.”
Yet, despite Walker's desire to create an artistic expression about surveillance, there's another thing that comes to everyone's mind when they hear about the stripper robots: sex. Despite audiences seemingly preferring the real deal when it comes to strippers, many people are ready and waiting for the emergence of sex robots. A Nesta FutureFest survey of 1002 adults in the United Kingdom discovered that 17 per cent of respondents would be prepared to go on a date with a robot and 26 per cent would date a robot that looks identical to a human.
In addition, the idea of sex robots "helping" criminals is consistently appearing in the news nowadays, with there being controversial talk of rapists being given them to use built-in "frigid" settings and child sex robots being used to treat paedophiles.
However, the stripper robot creator insists that he has been dragged into this talk unintentionally, pegging sexbots as having a "menacing touch". He explains: "I didn't build these to get involved in the sex industry. They weren't about sex, they were about voyeurism. I've been dragged into this side of things unintentionally, but I'm not complaining. It does pay the bills. I am a robot pimp in that way."
In fact, Walker has expressed worry about the development of "sex robots", telling Recode that the whole fad is an unhealthy behaviour. He said: “My worry is — and this is really crude, but it is a crude idea — if you build a robot that you can have sex with, then you can build a robot that you can rape, and you can build a child robot that you can have sex with, and it’s all supposedly legal. But [just] because it’s legal, does that mean it’s a healthy thing? The dark side of the sex industry will create some really nasty, nasty stuff, and I think, ‘Is it worth it?’”
At the end of the day, it appears that some of us will forever and always prefer the real deal over the robotic carbon copy. “There are a lot of people with weird fetishes, so I am sure somebody will get turned on by them,” one of the club’s performers revealed to AFP. “But nobody can beat the beauty of someone, and our talent with our brains, the way we talk. We can make people feel better than them.” She might just be right.
Featured illustration by Egarcigu