Chinese firms have unveiled numerous humanoid robots in recent years with rudimentary artificial intelligence. By some peculiar coincidence most of them have taken the female form (save, perhaps, the robot replica of Abe Shinzo, which bowed and apologised to visitors at the Shanghai robo-expo in 2015). Now robots incorporating AI are finding their way into the sex industry.
Take Exdoll, which was founded in 2013 by Yang Dongyue, after he returned from studying in Japan where the love doll industry had thoroughly impressed him.
Blow-up dolls were nothing new in China, but Yang saw a gap in the market for the “realistic and high-end” companions his company now offers. According to news website Huxiu, Exdoll produces over 2,000 dolls a year, which are sold at Rmb10,000 ($1,450) on average, with the best quality models going for around Rmb30,000 each.
These are not fully-fledged sex robots but an Exdoll does simulate some human moods. “There are 16 motors in the doll’s head,” an Exdoll executive explains. “The most important thing is to mimic the movements of a person’s face. The motors can make it blink, open its mouth, stick out its tongue, and so on.”
Beyond its appearance, each model has a name and reportedly a corresponding personality too, as well as a profession, such as nurse, air crew or secretary to name a stereotypical few. Dolls can also be customised and the company has launched a number of male models as well.
Last year, the firm scored a marketing coup when it provided a doll to a grieving widower, free of charge, modelled on his late wife (the man had previously bought a doll from a rival firm but it broke within a year, so Exdoll made him a new robot, as shown in the photo).
The value of China’s adult toy industry will almost double this year to Rmb13 billion, market research firm Analysys predicts.
“There are about 30 million more men than there are women. The use of smart, humanoid robots will certainly become more and more widespread,” Yang says, adding that his products could also be enjoyed by amateur photographers in need of a willing muse.
Exdoll is now applying to go public on Beijing’s New Third Board. The over-the-counter bourse has already accepted the listings of a number of intimate lifestyle firms. Exdoll’s business scale remains small for the time being, reporting Rmb19 million in revenue and just Rmb1 million in profit in 2016. But a successful IPO will certainly boost its profile.
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