Think No One Would Go To A Real-Life Westworld? Think Again

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
Sex between humans and machines isn't just a possibility in Westworld anymore. Robots are getting more and more realistic, and according to research presented at the Love and Sex with Robots conference in London this week, people want to take advantage of that.

"We react towards computers and machines as we do with human beings," explained researcher Jessica M. Szczuka, according to The Mirror. "This involves showing empathy and keeping an interpersonal distance with robots."

Szczuka and Professor Nicole Krämer, both from Germany's University of Duisburg-Essen, asked 263 straight men ages 18 to 67 if they'd purchase a female sex robot shown in two videos. Two in five said they would.

The researchers also surveyed subjects on their attitudes toward robots. The more people saw human characteristics in the robots, the more likely they were to say they'd sleep with them. The less comfortable they felt with robots, on the other hand, the less willing they were to hop into bed with a machine.

A recent Tufts University study also found that people were surprisingly open to robot sex. Most participants considered it appropriate to use a sex robot for sex education, as an alternative to hiring a sex worker, and as a prop in porn films.

While we may not have full-fledged Westworld-like sex robots yet, we are getting there. Some sperm banks in China use robotic sperm-collecting devices designed to mimic actual vaginas, according to Discover magazine. And the RealDolls sex toys will soon possess artificial intelligence in addition to their lifelike features, The New York Times reports.

While this all may seem cool and futuristic (if not also a little strange), humanoid robots open up a whole ethical can of worms, especially in the realm of sexuality.

"You are having a one way relationship with an object or a person that does not return your love except by pretense," computer scientist Noel Sharkey said at the same conference, according to The Telegraph.

But Trudy Barber, another technologist who gave a talk, was more optimistic. "I think what will happen is that they will make real-time relationships more valuable and exciting."

Of course, if that Westworld finale taught us anything about sex robots, it's be careful what you wish for.

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