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Abstract

This article describes a long-term study evaluating the use of the humanoid robot Kaspar in a specialist nursery for children with autism. The robot was used as a tool in the hands of teachers or volunteers, in the absence of the research team on-site. On average each child spent 16.53 months in the study. Staff and volunteers at the nursery were trained in using Kaspar and were using it in their day-to-day activities in the nursery. Our study combines an “in the wild” approach with a rigorous approach of collecting and including users’ feedback during an iterative evaluation and design cycle of the robot. This article focuses on the design of the study and the results from several interviews with the robot’s users. We also show results from the children’s developmental assessments by the teachers prior to and after the study. Results suggest a marked beneficial effect for the children from interacting with Kaspar. We highlight the challenges of transferring experimental technologies like Kaspar from a research setting into everyday practice in general and making it part of the day-to-day running of a nursery school in particular. Feedback from users led subsequently to many changes being made to Kaspar’s hardware and software. This type of invaluable feedback can only be gained in such long-term field studies.

Abstract

Music is the best medium for expressing emotions and arousal nonverbally. PLAY ME is a gender-neutral Arduino-based system that allows partners in a long-distance relationship to perceive each other’s sexual arousal and to provide stimulation of erogenous zones using music. PLAY ME’s main parts are a tiny pneumatic anal probe connected to a pressure sensor and a bodysuit with integrated vibrators. Whenever both partners wear these devices, a real-time exchange of emotions and corporeal feelings can be enabled. Three sensors capture genital sexual arousal and transform it into music: a pulse sensor, a sensor for galvanic skin response and a pneumatic anal pressure probe. The anal probe measures pelvic tensions and contractions. Its signal controls the main voice. Higher arousal leads to stronger pelvic muscle tensions. Measured data are mapped to pitch, so the level of sexual arousal is audible in a comprehensive way, and orgasms can be clearly identified by regular pulsating sounds. The pulse sensor and the skin response sensor are the driving rhythm and drone frequency. The vibrators in the bodysuit are controlled by sound that is generated by the partner using any audio source. Mixing the sounds generated by the sensors and the instrument leads to interactive music that can enhance erotic feelings and sexual arousal in the way of biofeedback. This article describes the background and construction of the PLAY ME system and shows diagrams of sensor values recorded during sexual stimulation. After a discussion of the results, there is an outlook toward further development.

Abstract

This article offers a novel reading of the criticisms of sex robots put forward by the Campaign Against Sex Robots (CASR). Focusing on the implication of a loss of empathy, it structures CASR’s worries as an argument from moral degradation centered around the potential effects on sexbot users’ sexual and moral subjectivity. This argument is subsequently explored through the combined lenses of postphenomenology and the ethical phenomenology of Emmanuel Levinas. In so doing, it describes the type of human-technology relations that sexbots invite, identifying alterity as a central feature. It also highlights how alterity, responsibility, and subjectivity are intimately connected. However, that connection is distinctly different in sexual circumstances, making current versions of Levinasian roboethics largely inapplicable for the ethics of sexbots. To overcome this, the article delves into Levinas’ phenomenology of Eros and identifies voluptuousness as a type of enjoyment of the Other that is different from the enjoyment invited by current sexbots and is compatible with responsibility. Based on this, the article provides examples of how this phenomenology of Eros can inspire the design of future sexbots in ways that alleviate some of CASR’s concerns.

Abstract

The idea of sex with robots seems to fascinate the general public, raising both enthusiasm and revulsion. We ran two experimental studies (N s = 172 and 260) where we compared people’s reactions to variants of stories about a person visiting a bordello. Our results show that paying for the services of a sex robot is condemned less harshly than paying for the services of a human sex worker, especially if the payer is married. We have for the first time experimentally confirmed that people are somewhat unsure about whether using a sex robot while in a committed monogamous relationship should be considered as infidelity. We also shed light on the psychological factors influencing attitudes toward sex robots, including disgust sensitivity and interest in science fiction. Our results indicate that sex with a robot is indeed genuinely considered as sex, and a sex robot is genuinely seen as a robot; thus, we show that standard research methods on sexuality and robotics are also applicable in research on sex robotics.