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How do you imagine a future where humans fall in love with robots? Neo-Robophilia is a speculative design project that presents a fictional dystopia in which this relationship becomes the norm, and introduces future probes - a set of sex toys designed for both humans and robots. The project traces the consequences of human attachment to humanoid robots over the next century, from childhood relationships to robots leading to codependency in later life. It asks the thought-provoking question, 'Creating the perfect 'human' for us will come at a price, and what if it is our humanity?

This project was showcased at the 7th International Congress of Love & Sex with robots and London Design Festival 2022.


01 Background: Robot Nannies 
Undoubtedly, robots will play a more significant role in human lives in the near future, both at home and in emotional interactions. In fact, a robotics company introduced the first nanny robot at CES2018, promoting it as the perfect solution for working parents to care for their children when they are not home. Considering the current global childcare crisis and our increasing dependence on technology, having an indefatigable robot nanny seems like a plausible future.

However, despite the timeless appearance of humanoid robots, they are still just gadgets. Companies will continually release new models and end technical support for older ones (as we've seen with Sony's Aibo), and people will dispose of these outdated models. In this context, the caregiver (robot nanny) will eventually become just another obsolete gadget after it has served its purpose.

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02 Development: The Impact of Early Detachment
When we experience separation, it is natural to find a replacement, a transitional object, to fill the void of the lost one. After experiencing the early detachment(or 'death' of robots) from their caregiver, children link the lost one to other objects that share similar traits and identify with the machinery. It causes psychological deficiency, and children link the caregiver to other objects with similar traits to relieve anxiety. This habituation with non-human entities is regarded as paraphilia or fetish. For instance, they feel relaxed from the sound of a fan rather than the sound of breathing. And the early attachment makes the children prefer familiar robots to unpredictable humans. So, they are inclined to build deeper relationships with non-humans in their later life.


03 Speculation: Transition of Love
While a human projects another imaginary human subject on the sex machines in the current society, the new generation will fall in love with the robot itself, an ontological meaning of a machine. However, since robots do not have autonomy and genuine emotion, humans feel emptiness in their intimate relationships. A human is not essential and necessary to a robot lover, even though the human cannot live without the robot. It will trigger humans to have codependent relationships in which humans strongly desire to be needed by robots. Humans "please" robots in the relationship, extending their comfort to "satisfy" robots. In this way, humans find their sense of self, and they feel they are worthless unless doing it.


04 Artifacts: Transition of Sex
In this codependent relationship, humans satisfy robots by taking on the role of servicing them during sex. Humans anthropomorphize a machine's pleasure based on its working conditions, insisting that maintenance satisfies the robot. By uncovering body parts and touching all the corners, both humans and machines share vulnerability in their nakedness. A careful and elaborate maintenance process is considered an intimate touch, and the fear of early loss contributes to the human projection of 'machine satisfaction.'

The Neo-Robophilia project presents a set of fictional objects designed for human-robot sex, where humans perform conventional sexual gestures using their hands, mouth, and fingers, resulting in cleaning, dusting, and lubricating the robots. The objects imply that, ironically, humans take a submissive role to robots. Moreover, humans want to feel connected to the machine as a penetration of human sexuality. The last object dehydrates humans and causes static, the movement of electrons between machines and humans. The haptic sense of static becomes a sexual sensation in human-robot relationships.


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