Starpery Technology AI sexdoll
China's sex doll makers are revamping their products with AI, aiming for more interactive companions. Twitter / Coulmock @Coulmock_Yov

Pushing the boundaries of sex doll interaction, a leading Chinese manufacturer is developing AI-powered chatbots for their products. Starpery Technology, a global giant in the industry, is training cutting-edge large language models (LLMs) to elevate their products with artificial intelligence.

Starpery's CEO, Evan Lee, announced earlier this month that these AI-powered companions will come in both male and female forms. Boasting unprecedented capabilities, these prototypes could hit store shelves by August, according to a South China Morning Post report.

In response to recent inquiries from enthusiastic fans ("What's new at Starpery?"), the company has subtly hinted at upcoming developments. Hawk-eyed fans might have spotted the addition of an "AIDoll" section on the company's homepage navigation bar, hinting at exciting developments to come - sex dolls 'interacting' via an AI interface.

China's Rise in AI-Powered Companionship

Starpery remains committed to its founding vision: persistently developing innovative and effective AI functionalities. The company prioritises natural interaction between users and AI-powered companions in a bid to provide an unparalleled user experience coupled with a deeper sense of companionship.

"Technological challenges remain, particularly in achieving realistic human interaction," Lee said. "While simple dialogue is easy, creating interactive responses involves complex model development by specialised software companies."

Limited by metal frames and silicone shells, traditional dolls struggle to offer more than basic responses and expressions. They need more engagement to form a deeper connection with users.

In contrast, Lee emphasises that the next generation of sex dolls leverages AI and sensor technology to deliver a more profound user experience. These companions go beyond basic conversation, fostering emotional connections through interactive speech and movement.

Traditionally focused on international markets, Starpery is now setting its sights on China's domestic sex doll market. While China may be known for its social conservatism, Lee revealed a surprising fact: the country boasts the world's largest sex doll market that exceeds the combined sales of the US, Japan, and Germany.

This trend runs counter to some social norms, as a 2017 report suggested a rise in Japanese men seeking companionship with silicone dolls. However, China's market dominance highlights a different cultural perspective on intimacy and companionship in this rapidly changing society.

"People in the industry know China has a huge market, with purchasing power in major cities surpassing many European countries. The market is also open in mind – though aesthetically different from the European market," he said.

Starpery's vision extends beyond companionship. Their roadmap includes:

  • Developing versatile robots capable of tackling household chores.
  • Assisting individuals with disabilities.
  • Providing much-needed aged care.

By 2025, they aim to unveil their first "smart service robot," designed to offer advanced assistance to those with disabilities. Looking ahead to 2030, their plans envision these robots safeguarding people from hazardous work environments.

Challenges and Considerations: From Battery Life to Legal Concerns

Lee identified two key hurdles in achieving this ambitious vision: battery capacity and artificial muscles. Unlike electric vehicles, humanoid robots have limited space for bulky batteries. To ensure independent operation, significant advancements in battery energy density are needed.

Moreover, current motors lack the remarkable versatility of human muscles. Human muscles can exert force across a wide spectrum and adapt their firmness, seamlessly conforming to the body. Mimicking this capability in artificial muscles is essential for natural and efficient movement.

However, achieving lifelike weight currently presents a challenge. These dolls can often tip the scales at 40kg (88 lbs), exceeding the capacity of current motors and potentially posing a safety risk to users due to the risk of falls or injuries. In July 2023, Lee noted that their 172cm (5 foot, 6 inches) tall doll achieved a lighter weight of just 29kg.

In addition to technical hurdles, Starpery confronts economic and ethical challenges. Reducers, critical components that transmit power between motors and humanoid robot joints, are a significant cost factor.

These gearboxes, often requiring multiple configurations for various joints, can account for up to 30 percent of a robot's total cost. "We strive to decrease the cost so that more people can afford realistic dolls, while adding motors will increase the cost [to] some extent," Lee said.

Economic barriers aren't the only concern. For singles who find sex dolls too expensive, AI girlfriends are a burgeoning industry offering virtual companionship. Platforms like Altcat allow users to create virtual girlfriends modelled after their favourite influencers.

However, replicating this concept with sex robots could pose legal challenges for manufacturers. The company might face legal hurdles if they attempt to create sex dolls replicating popular influencers due to potential copyright and trademark infringement, along with right of publicity concerns.

While the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) doesn't directly address sex dolls in their resources on using someone else's image online, it provides valuable insight into fair use and copyright infringement that can be applied to this situation.