PERFECTION Exhibits

21.06.19 – 06.10.19

Harmony

HARMONY

REALBOTIX | United States of America

2017

DOES A ROBOT MAKE FOR AN ULTIMATE PERFECT PARTNER?

Harmony is one of the world’s most advanced robotic companions. A robot that you can customize to look exactly how you want it to look. Your choice of perfect eyes, perfect lips, among many more features. Complete with facial expressions and movements, Harmony communicates via an artificial intelligence (AI) system that includes multiple personalities and a face that will never age. Both male and female robots are proposed to be manufactured, with increasing interest in multi-gender options. As science fiction becomes reality, will more people develop intimate relationships with robots? And what will be the social consequences of such companionships?

ABOUT

REALBOTIX is the brainchild of artist and designer Matt McMullen. He started Abyss Creations, the manufacturer of Realdoll, out of his garage in 1997. Matt’s robots have appeared on more than 20 television shows and co-starred in 10 films.

Deeper Dive

Conor McGinn

Assistant Professor, Mechanical & Manufactured Engineering, Trinity College Dublin

Harmony is one of the world’s most advanced companion robots. Although it might appear strange and taboo, the prospect of creating a synthetic partner could seem oddly attractive to many people. In a modern world where people seem to have less and less time, it offers unparalleled convenience, asks for nothing in return, and will never break your heart. Plus, it can be designed to resemble the bodily ideals of men and women that would normally be accessible only through glossy magazines or on posters that inhabit the walls of teenagers' bedrooms. And don't forget, they laugh at all of your jokes.

Creating artificial partners is a technically arduous task, they are programmed to understand the world around them using cameras, microphones and a range of other digital sensors and developments in animatronics has led to the development of machines that appear to personify the ideals of human beauty, as evidenced by robots like Harmony and Sophia. However, due to an effect known as the 'uncanny valley', as its appearance becomes more realistic, our expectation of it increases and we become sensitive to even the smallest errors that the robot makes when engaging in social behavior.

Even if it becomes technically possible to create believable robotic partners, there are many ethical issues that must be considered. In an era where social change is moving towards better levels of equality, do we want relationships founded on ownership and programmed subservience? Do we want to move beyond Instagram filters and Photoshop to the point where people aspire to attain the unrealistic bodies of robots? How will this new level of objectification effect the self-esteem of young and impressionable people. And ultimately, are we moving towards a point that if we can attain a perfect partner through a machine, will this will measurably effect people’s willingness to form real human relationships?