Consumerist, mundane, and uncanny futures with sex robots

Digital Health

Collaborators Northeastern University

Abstract

We conducted a story completion study about the contentious and under-explored topic of sex robots.

Method

Thirty five participants completed a wrote stories of a human encountering a sex robot written from the perspective of both the human and the robot.

Takeaways

We considered how do we challenge dominant ideas of consumerism, efficiency, and anthropomorphism of sex robots?

Sex Robots are no longer science fiction and may soon become widespread. While much discussion has developed in academia on their moral and social impact, sex robots have yet to be examined from a critical design perspective and are under-explored in HCI. We conducted a story completion study about the contentious and under-explored topic of sex robots.

Thirty five participants were asked to write stories about 'Morgan', a gender ambiguous protagonist who was about to have an encounter with a sex robot, with roughly half writing from Morgan's perspective and the other from the perspective of the sex robot.

Through thematic analysis, we show narratives of consumerist relationships between humans and sex robots, stories that describe sex robots as highly-efficient sex workers that (out)perform humans in routinal sex activities, and narratives that explore sex robots as empathetic and sentient beings.

Takeaways

Our participant-created stories both reinforce and challenge established norms of sex robots and raise questions that concern responsible design and ethics in HCI.

Through our analysis, we found participants made sense of a mundane, everyday future with sex robots in three different ways:

  • as a co-modified experience in a commercial setting
  • the efficient delivery of sexual needs that outpeformed humans in routinal sexual tasks
  • characterising the sex robot with an artificial personhood that was potentially endearing.

We discuss these in relation to the developing cultural context of sex robots in a perhaps not-too-distant future.

Publications

"And This, Kids, Is How I Met Your Mother": Consumerist, Mundane, and Uncanny Futures with Sex Robots

  1. Matthew Wood
  2. Giovanni Maria Troiano
  3. Casper Harteveld

2020Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - CHI ’20