Sdtrk: ‘Tony Williams deathspace’ by Merzbow
Recently, Erin O’Brien, writer for the Cleveland Free Times, wrote a tale entitled ‘Guys and Dolls‘ (a popular title! I can’t imagine why) about her experiences hanging out for a couple of weeks on The Doll Forum.
Owners of the eerily realistic dolls are the butt of jokes and the subjects of unsolicited psychological analysis and feminist soapboxes worldwide. Nonetheless, RealDoll fascinated me and I smoldered with curiosity about those who admire her.
Granted, there are a couple of parts where her impressions come off as unflattering, but for the most part, it’s an even-handed piece which doesn’t condemn, as she took direct quotes from Doll owners themselves. She’d also written a companion post in her blog, as well as a follow-up post.
Her article caused a bit of a storm in a teacup, as several iDollators weren’t initially civil to her, which may have coloured her opinions slightly. But being an iDollator myself, I can entirely understand, as there have been several occasions where opportunistic writers have come a-calling to the Forum, looking to dig up some dirt on this weird and creepy subculture of bizarre perverts, and with a topic like this, frankly, a single smear campaign is one too many. So a natural reaction to outsiders is one of snarling suspicion, which, as far as I’m concerned, is pretty justified. More writers — particularly, writers who genuinely want to present Doll owners in a positive, or at the very least, neutral, light — need to do their homework beforehand, and realise that we iDollators are fiercely protective of our interest, our hobby, our lifestyle, our partners. Cos as time goes on, we’ll be swelling the ranks, but right now, we’re in the minority, and at this stage, bad publicity is worse than none at all.
But, having said that, I do admire Erin for not only sticking to her guns, but for coming up with a non-prejudicial piece. At the very least, she made an honest effort to understand our culture, which is more than I can say for most people.
Moving on! Naturally, anyone that knows me on any level above that of ‘aquaintance’ knows that I’m very pro-robotics, particularly when those robots closely resemble Organiks. However, in the interest of objectivity and possible debate, here’s an article that presents the other side of the coin:
Should robots be built to look more like us?
By Eric Hand
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH | 05/29/2007
When it comes down to it, Lewis the robot isn’t much more than a red trash can on wheels. And its designer, Washington University computer scientist William Smart, likes it that way.
“I don’t want to put fuzzy heads on my robots,” he said. “It’s a tool. You don’t have an emotional relationship with a robot.”
Whether or not the relationships are emotional, robots are certainly becoming more social. Especially in Japan, where robots are doing everything from collecting garbage to bathing the elderly to providing child care. Lewis, a picture-taking robot, also has a social role — to linger on the edges of gatherings and catch people in candid poses.
As these social robots lurch their way into our lives, a question arises: What should they look like? Some scientists say they should look and talk like people, and take advantage of people’s tendencies to personify. (Think C3PO.) Others, such as Smart, say they should remain fundamentally nonhuman — intelligent and capable of reading people, but not obviously anthropomorphic. (Think R2D2.)
“It’s definitely a design decision, and it’s one that doesn’t have an obvious answer,” said Brian Scassellati, a Yale University computer scientist.
the rest of the article is here
I can respect where Mr Smart is coming from, but obviously I can’t agree with him. As robotic creations edge their way into mainstream society, I definitely believe there’ll be a need for non-anthropomorphic robots to perform non-obtrusive, behind-the-scenes tasks, but there’ll also be a need for more human-like Synthetiks, such as Actroid et al, to undertake more social duties, such as child-minding, nursing, err, receptionist… ing. And you certainly can’t call something with any advanced artificial intelligence a ‘tool’. There’s absolutely no reason why all robots have to resemble rolling wheelie bins; it’s limiting and unimaginative. That’d be the equivalent of decreeing that all cars must resemble the Subaru 360. Waitaminute — that’s a fantastic idea!
And finally, something on the Good end of the Interesting spectrum: Nick Rucka of DiY film studio Maboroshii Productions is preparing to screen his 2002 documentary, ‘Real Doll Doctor‘. He was kind enough to post me an advance copy, and despite the tired appeal to ‘pervs and fans of the weird’, it’s a rather objective documentary. Clocking in at 14 min, it simply details our favourite Doll refurbisher inking up someone’s arm at his day job, and at work repairing a lass. There’s no soundtrack, but I find that could focus the viewer’s attention to what’s being said. Much like Erin’s article, it’s open-ended and entirely nonjudgemental, although it could do with a wee bit of narrative background, especially over the scenes in the (old) Abyss creations studios. I look at it this way — there’s always going to be a viewer who really doesn’t know what the whole RealDoll phenomenon is, so a bit of background wouldn’t go amiss. Hell, I’d volunteer to do the narration if I had the technological means to do so…
Nick tells me that IFC.com has confirmed that they’ll be hosting his film, so keep an eye out for it!
‘Shouting to hear the echoes’: Synthetiks news you can use! As per usual
An alternate universe Erin logs into ‘The Organik Forum’