It's been just short of a year since I locked eyes with Harmony, RealDoll's first sex robot, at her home in Southern California. It was an arresting experience that has remained cemented in memory. In that moment, I suddenly understood the uncanny valley, a theory posited by roboticist Masahiro Mori, nearly half a century prior. It attempts to explain the feeling of revulsion and eeriness that human onlookers experience when they encounter an artificial life-form that appears nearly, but not quite human.
Today, she's ventured out of the dimly lit R&D room at Abyss Creations to meet me at CES. On the eve of her debut, Harmony has ventured to the hotbed of consumer electronics with a new face, an updated AI and a few new friends.
When I first met Matt McMullen, Harmony's creator and human chaperone, he planned to launch what I've called the world's first commercially viable sex robot in late 2017. Harmony's AI would be customizable via an accompanying Android app, but with limitations. While he had plans for a male version and mused about other gender variations, Harmony would launch as an artificial female with porn star proportions.
Harmony failed to launch in 2017, but McMullen and his team have been hard at work, making improvements to Harmony's AI and the robotic head it's housed in. He's now targeting the end of this month for a release date, and while he's says he's still refining the pricing, Realbotix modular robotic heads should cost between $8,000 and $10,000 at launch.
Just minutes after the lights went out at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Harmony lit up in a hotel just across the street. Perched on a bust that could just as easily be used to display jewelry, she made small talk and recited a few dad jokes. After a year of contemplation, I no longer felt the same uneasiness I had during our first encounter. It could be that the novelty has worn off or the fact that Harmony was basically a head on a stick. It could have been CES AI fatigue, but the existential anxiety was gone.
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