A war is underway in the sex robot world. Samantha, a doll that hit stores earlier this year, has been making waves with its A.I.-powered hardware and its array of sensors that respond to the user’s touch. But Sergi Santos, the doll’s creator, has been attacked by a rival developer that describes his product as “kind of cheesy.”
“I would very strongly argue against those qualifying as sex robots,” Mat McMullin, the creator of the Harmony sex robot, told The Daily Star on Friday. “I think a talking doll is more of an accurate description, from what I’ve seen.”
McMullin’s system is a robotic head designed for use with a Realdoll sex doll. The head adds animated facial expressions and a mouth that keeps in sync with audio. It also features Bluetooth connectivity for interaction with a smartphone app, with an artificial intelligence that will “evolve” to the point where it seems “that the doll is actually talking to you and that she’s got sentience.” The team is aiming for a price lower than $10,000 when it launches later this year.
Santos is less than impressed by this. His creation, which hit British stores in September, is available for global shipping with a price tag of $5,000. The doll stands 5 feet 5 inches, with a thermoplastic elastomer outer layer designed to feel like human skin that houses 11 sensors. Like Harmony, Samantha uses A.I. to communicate and respond, but Santos claims that his version is less derivative.
“They are making diluted versions of Alexa and Google Home. I have based everything on my own concepts and ideas, which are original,” Santos told The Mirror on Saturday. “As an artist and businessman I respect, but as a scientist I must admit I don’t feel challenged by any of those comments.”
Eventually, Santos wants to use his dolls as a stepping stone toward a much bolder vision. In the future, he wants people to receive a doll at birth that automates a wider variety of tasks, like health and psychology issues.
Before that can happen, Samantha needs to enter mass production, as right now the dolls are currently produced by hand. He needs around $500,000 to expand operations, and he needs to do it fast.
“If I make say, 5,000 for Christmas, I succeed,” Santos told Inverse. “If I make 50 for Christmas, I’m out.”
As the end of the year approaches, the race is on to see which of these two developers will succeed.