RealDoll maker envisions a day your ‘companion’ will talk back to you


Her film Joaquin Phoenix
We don't know if A.I. plus RealDolls would make Spike Jonze's film Her more or less creepy.
Photo: Warner Bros.

This might be the most divisive news of the day: RealDoll creator Matt McMullen is currently working with artificial-intelligence scientists to create a fusion between digital assistants like Apple’s Siri and synthetic companions. It could be the most amazing news you’ve ever heard, or it might be terrifying and make you feel like spiders are crawling on you.

Regardless of how much or little it creeps you out, however, it’s definitely interesting.

RealDoll (link is obviously not safe for work) bills itself as “The world’s finest love doll,” and you might be familiar with its products if you’ve seen movies like the 2007 Ryan Gosling dramedy Lars and the Real Girl, watched late-night HBO in the ’90s, or are a customer. They are life-sized, anatomically correct replications of both men and women that are painstakingly crafted to look and feel genuine. And because they’re so uncanny and carefully made, they cost thousands of dollars.

McMullen just sees one problem: Any conversation you might have will be pretty one-sided.

“I think it would be really cool if we can get to a point where it is sort of interacting with your home automation,” he told Engadget (via CinemaBlend), “and you’re able to communicate with her from wherever you are like, ‘I’m on my way home, can you turn on the oven?’ and instead of talking to your oven, you have this avatar that’s sort of a conduit for that communication.”

Regardless of whether or not Apple will ever allow a sex doll to interact with its HomeKit automation protocol, McMullen sees the future “lives” of RealDolls extending outside of the bedroom (and into the kitchen, in his example, so it’s not a huge step up for any feminist aspirations we might want to project upon these things).

“I really kind of look at this as much more than a sex doll,” McMullen says about the A.I. upgrade. “It’s almost like a companion in a lot of ways because for me, when I decided, ‘Hey, we should do this,’ it was more about making the interaction interesting and entertaining and making the person who’s interacting feel happy.”

And that definitely explains why so many of the pictures on his website show the dolls naked.

In addition to brain power, McMullen also has a team working on making RealDolls more expressive by introducing animatronics and robotics to let their faces match their words. So we’re still pretty far from a sex doll that can get themselves around instead of their owners having to cart them around in a swivel chair or wheelbarrow, which is probably a good idea. Because if they can walk, that means they can chase you.

McMullen says he’s working on keeping the price of the upcoming, thinking heads under $10,000 and also making it possible for existing RealDoll owners to simply swap out their models’ current noggins for the smarter ones instead of asking them to spend an additional $7,000 to $8,000 on a whole new body.