He released the report in partnership with Bondara, one of the UK’s leading sex toy shops.
Dr. Pearson makes the point that robotic sex toys – vibrators – have been in use for around a century, and that virtual reality porn is about to become mainstream.
So, what really is the taboo around sex robots – which have got some campaigners incredibly fired up?
In the report, Dr. Pearson writes:
- By 2030, most people will have some form of virtual sex as casually as they browse porn today
- By 2035 the majority of people will own sex toys that interact with virtual reality sex
- We will start to see some forms of robot sex appearing in high-income, very wealthy households as soon as 2025
- We will start to see robot sex overtaking human-human in 2050
- Leisure spending could grow by a factor of five, and the sex market in 20 years could be three times bigger than today and seven times bigger by 2050.
- Sex toys will account for a UK market of over £1bn
He makes the point that augmented and virtual reality technology are in development, with Oculous Rift being due for release in 2016.
As with the internet – over a quarter of internet searches, according to the report, are related to pornography – this will almost certainly be used for sex.
Some think that the ethics of watching virtual reality porn – simulating sex acts with a fake, 3D person – are no different than the ethics of having sex with a robot.
The market is going to grow as new technologies for sex develop
People are constantly looking for new ways to spice up their sex lives. This is proven by the fact that the sex toy market has been growing by 6% every year.
Dr. Pearson says: “That rate of growth can’t continue forever or it would soon be our entire spend, but underlying economic growth could stay around 2% for the next few decades at least, tripling incomes, and basic survival will take a smaller share of thatdue to automation and other technology reducing costs.
“That means that leisure spending could grow by a factor of five, and the sex market in 20 years could be three times bigger than today and seven times bigger by 2050.”
As the offerings become more diverse – so, when technology such as virtual reality and sex robots go on the market – people will be willing to spend more.
Why do we feel weird about sex robots?
Perhaps because they aren’t mainstream. It’s the belief of Dr. Pearson that, like porn, once a lot of people use it and it becomes normalised, people won’t be freaked out by it anymore.
This belief is shared by sex robot developer Matt McMullen, who has made it his life’s work to develop something that can turn humans on emotionally and physically.
McMullen uses a phrase called the ‘uncanny valley’ – he believes that if a sex robot is too human-like and too realistic, we get put off. He thinks it’s more effective to keep them slightly unrealistic.
He said: “A moving doll is different from a, you know, detailed-to-the-finest-skin-pore copy of a person — and then making it move, for me, is a little off-putting,
“If you keep it far enough away from super-realism, I think you’re in safer territory.”
Dr. Pearson is of the opinion that when robots improve in terms of look and feel, people will be less squeamish.
He said: “A lot of people will still have reservations about sex with robots at first but gradually as they get used to them, as the AI and mechanical behaviour and their feel improves, and they start to become friends with strong emotional bonds, that squeamishness will gradually evaporate.
“While some people will enthusiastically embrace relationship-free robot sex as soon as they can afford one, as early as 2025, it won’t have much chance of overtaking sex with humans overall until 2050.”