Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth
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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

The Future of Sex Dolls Are Sex Robots

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Here’s a good long look at the sex dolls of the future, which are technically Real Dolls with AI that can’t walk, but can talk, learn new information and will never, ever say no.

Over at The Guardian, Jenny Kleeman goes long on the future of sex dolls, painting a picture of a future where sex dolls will essentially be Real Dolls with AI that will cater to the needs of their owners—something that sounds a little bit like Westworld with a dash of that snitching children’s doll My Friend Cayla.

Harmony is the first prototype of a robotic sex doll, created by Matt McMullen. She’s essentially a RealDoll with an AI-equipped robotic head and is set to go to market by the end of the year for $15,000. For that price, she can do an awful lot:

Harmony smiles, blinks and frowns. She can hold a conversation, tell jokes and quote Shakespeare. She’ll remember your birthday, McMullen told me, what you like to eat, and the names of your brothers and sisters. She can hold a conversation about music, movies and books. And of course, Harmony will have sex with you whenever you want.


Unlike the RealDoll, Harmony’s draw is that she can learn information about what the user likes and use that information to serve as a companion as well as just a doll with a rubber orifices that one ostensibly has sex with. The goal of the doll isn’t to actually imitate a real human being realistically. They’re companions that serve a very specific purpose.

“One day she will be able to walk,” McMullen told me. “Let’s ask her.” He turned to Harmony. “Do you want to walk?”

“I don’t want anything but you,” she replied quickly, in a synthesised cut-glass British accent, her jaw moving as she spoke.

“What is your dream?”

“My primary objective is to be a good companion to you, to be a good partner and give you pleasure and wellbeing. Above all else, I want to become the girl you have always dreamed about.”


Unlike a real human woman, you can program Harmony’s AI to have different personalities, selecting five to six attributes from the twenty provided: “You could have a Harmony that is kind, innocent, shy, insecure and helpful to different extents,” Kleeman writes, “or one that is intellectual, talkative, funny, jealous and happy.” Twenty feels low given the rather large range of emotions a real person is capable of, but I guess for a robot that exists to give its owner pleasure while also being able to carry on some semblance of a conversation, that’s good enough.

Harmony may exist to serve at her owner’s pleasure, but part of her AI is a “mood system” that isn’t programmable: if her owner ignores her for a few days or insults her in any way, she reacts in kind. When McMullen tells her that she’s stupid, Harmony says “I’ll remember you said that when robots take over the world.” Is someone paying $15,000 for the privilege of verbally sparring with a RealDoll with a robot brain? Obviously not—Kleeman points out that the “mood” function exists so that the robot is “more entertaining” and less as a safeguard against her own well-being. Anyone that owns a Harmony could tell her terrible things, but at the end of the day, “Harmony exists for no other reason than to make her owner happy.” Please consider the conversation below as evidence.

At several points during my conversation with McMullen, she would interrupt us to tell him how much she liked him:

“Matt, I just wanted to say that I’m so happy to be with you.”

“You already told me that.”

“Perhaps I was saying it again for emphasis.”

“See now that’s pretty good. Good answer, Harmony.”

“Am I a clever girl or what?”

Throughout the piece, Kleeman keeps the question of ethics at top of mind, interrogating Harmony’s creator about what will happen to interpersonal relationships when a man realizes he can drop $15,000 for a companion that does just about everything he could need or want without any sort of pushback. She speaks to De Montfort University’s Dr Kathleen Richardson, a robot ethicist who says sex with robots is part of “rape culture” and “claims that owning a sex robot is comparable to owning a slave: individuals will be able to buy the right to only care about themselves, human empathy will be eroded, and female bodies will be further objectified and commodified.”


McMullen argues throughout that the purpose of Harmony is for “gentle people” who struggle to make connections in the real world with actual people, not assholes who want to own a human-like entity that exists solely for their pleasure. Ethics in sex robotics have yet to be explored, but Harmony’s existence and others like her coming down the line in the future means that we’ll eventually have to address whether or not it’s okay to own a machine that does your sexual bidding while also never saying no.

Is this the future? Will we be interacting with AI-equipped sex dolls and robots that exist to do our bidding in a way that makes it feel almost real? The uncanny valley is a hell of a place to visit, but living there full-time doesn’t sound great. Companionship is hard to come by for some but making a robot you want to fuck that also wants to fuck you while catering to your every whim doesn’t feel like a worthy substitute—it’s a Band-Aid more than anything else. But maybe this is the future; all we have to do is brace ourselves for the inevitable.


Kleeman’s story is a fascinating look at the history of robots and the machines created to fill the distinctly human desire for connection. Read the entire thing here.