Automation and artificial intelligence are having a real impact on industries of all types — Wall Street bankers, journalists, warehouse workers, factory managers, and even the sex industry. That latest disruption to sex work comes from inside the industry: CamSoda, one of the top ten camming sites according to Similar Web, has debuted a robot cam model.
CamSoda on Thursday debuted Cardi-Bot, which does exactly what you might imagine: It dances around a pole and performs commands from viewers for compensation, similar to how a human cam model might engage their audience. But this robot will be able to interact with viewers using A.I., say its marketers.
CamSoda executive Daryn Parker says Cardi-Bot — “not named or inspired after the rapper, Cardi B.,” he notes when asked — will be “conversational” in early 2019, thanks to natural language software that’s being developed now.
“The more Cardi-Bot interacts with users, the more language she will pick up on, creating a more conversational interaction and human-like experience,” Parker tells Inverse. CamSoda wouldn’t disclose any more technical information when asked about what programming is used to inform the robot’s natural language processing. The company does say that “with machine learning, [the robot] can capture chats in her room to learn how to carry a more fluid conversation with its users.”
Cardi Bot’s head looks like a closed-circuit security camera, but its other features are designed to take the viewer right into the Uncanny Valley with human-shaped features and white high heels. Sculptor Giles Walker designed the robot, which is part of a series he calls “Kinetics” on his website; and it appears alongside humanoid robots with soccer balls or megaphones atop their necks instead of heads.
In fact, Cardi-Bot’s design isn’t all new at all — it made its debut a decade ago and a creepy video of it at Mutate Britain (a mutant version of London’s Tate Gallery) has nearly 260,000 views on YouTube. What CamSoda appears to be adding to this sex robot is the ability to communicate with people. When its five motors that allow it to move around a pole are activated, it will be doing it because someone asked it to.
Inspired by the popularity of the HBO series Westworld, Parker says CamSoda “wanted to offer people a free chance to interact with robots, which are cost prohibitive for most.” It’s true: Beneath most of the headlines about how sex robots will change everything in just a couple of years is often a price that’s enough to buy a lightly used sedan. A high-end sex doll can cost around $15,000, especially if it resembles the look of a famous adult actress. (Male sex dolls — this link is N.S.F.W. — are far less expensive, even if they possess “killer Eurasian looks” and a “shredded, fit body.”)
“This is 100% legitimate.”
Porn companies, whether they be websites that host web cam model livestreams or pre-recorded video, are known to perform publicity stunts or release viewing data after major events like the Super Bowl. The idea of a robot web-cam model seems like just, a stunt, that but a company rep responded to a skeptical inquiry like this: “I can assure you, this is 100% legitimate.”
The web cam industry has grown dramatically along with the proliferation of streaming video, empowering an untold number of women and men with independence and sometimes-lucrative careers. In return, millions of voyeurs or audience members are will to pay to interact with them and become dedicated fans.
But will audiences feel the same way about a robot? The first impressions happen here today. CamSoda says that Cardi-Bot will perform weekly shows for free to the public, viewers can “can take Cardi-Bot into a private cam session, during which they will be able to interact with her more intimately, where she will perform tasks that are activated by tips.”