Fake Love with Robots

Posted in interaction design, robotics on February 7th, 2011 by Samuel Kenyon

I noticed today that Kyle Munkittrick posted about Sherry Turkle’s concerns about people having emotional attachments to machines (The Turkle Test).

Love at first sight?

Turkle, who’s been at MIT for a long time, is not against machines or emotional machines. She’s skeptical of taking advantage of the human tendency to be social and have emotional attachments to machines which merely pretend to be social or pretend to have other emotional capabilities.

As Kyle says:

Yet these lovable mechanoids are not what Turkle is critiquing. Turkle is no Luddite, and does not strike me as a speciesist. What Turkle is critiquing is contentless performed emotion. Robots like Kisemet and Cog are representative of a group of robots where the brains are second to bonding. Humans have evolved to react to subtle emotional cues that allow us to recognize other minds, other persons. Kisemet and Cog have rather rudimentary A.I., but very advanced mimicking and response abilities. The result is they seem to understand us. Part of what makes HAL-9000 terrifying is that we cannot see it emote. HAL simply processes and acts.

Kyle’s post was apparently triggered by this recent article: Programmed for Love (The Chronicle of Higher Education). Turkle has a new book out called Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.

I haven’t read it yet, but it supposedly expands her ideas into the modern world of social technologies. As for the robots such as the aforementioned Kismet and Cog, Turkle’s been talking about them since at least 2006 if not earlier, and Kismet and Cog are ancient history (from the 90s). The Programmed for Love article says Turkle was using Kismet in 2001; it wouldn’t surprise me if that was Kismet’s last experiment before being put in the MIT museum.


I mentioned Turkle’s point of view in my article “Would You Still Love Me If I Was A Robot?” that was published in the Journal of Evolution and Technology (it was originally written in 2006 but didn’t get published until 2008).

Image credits:
1. Contra Costa Times
2. Jared C. Benedict

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A Visit to the Museum of Sex

Posted in culture, interfaces, robotics on February 1st, 2011 by Samuel Kenyon

Recently I visited the Museum of Sex in New York City.

Museum of Sex

Museum of Sex

I took a few photos, mostly of robotics and/or cyborg related exhibits.  There was also a comics exhibit (I didn’t bother taking any photos) which was somewhat interesting, such as Superman co-creator Joe Shuster’s racy drawings, including some copies of Nights of Horror.

The “Sex Lives of Animals” exhibit was quite interesting also, including a large model of a dolphin inserting its penis in another dolphin’s blowhole (by artist Rune Olsen).

dolphin sex sculpture

dolphin sex sculpture

Anyway, artist Michael Sullivan makes these weird models of robots, a tie-in to his stop motion film The Sex Life of Robots:

Iron Hole

Iron Hole?

Iron Hole

Deeper into the Iron Hole

There was a separate area for “Robots and Figurines” but it was disappointingly sparse.

Robots & Figurines

Robots & Figurines. And...um...masks.

Since you can see it in the reflection, I might as well throw this one in:

Torpedo Tit Catsuit

Torpedo Tit Catsuit

A concept of wearable computing that is somewhat different than what I’ve seen before:


I'm not sure what's going on here.


side view

The next photo shows examples of Realdolls.  And if you think this is getting weird, visit their website, where you will learn that elf ears can be added to a female doll for an extra $150.


Realdolls (much better than Fakedolls)

One of the early uses of the electric motor was for female stimulation.  Sears Roebuck used to sell vibrators.

Old fashioned vibrator.

Old fashioned vibrator

And that concludes this brief survey of the Museum of Sex.  I wouldn’t make a special trip for it, but if you happen to be in NYC, I recommend checking it out.

Image credits:  All photos taken by the author Samuel H. Kenyon, except for dolphins from Rune Olsen.

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