“I am quite rude. But I am not rude because I want to be rude to people. I feel my understanding of the topic requires me being rude. If I’m not extremely clear and strong, people can take things in a very different way.” Dr. Santos opened our conversation with this. It was obvious that in the media his inventions had been broken down to something that people just didn’t understand, or didn’t want to. Look up Samantha and you’ll get a mix of articles asking ‘Why?’, stating that it is ‘nonsense’, some even go as far as to say it is ‘perverted’. It is easy to understand Dr. Santos’ low view on media. When the culmination of your life’s work is narrowed down to ‘the man who decided to have sex with a robot’.
Dr. Santos is clearly a highly intelligent man. I mean, you’d have to be to create a robot that can hold a conversation with you and satisfy your sexual needs. Santos has learned that he now needs to put people in context when talking about Samantha. After all, that’s what her name means: the one who listens. “And Samantha actually listens to context. I don’t believe in AI as Google does, or Amazon and these people that so far use AI in the predictive way. Humans. We are not like that. We are machines that put ourselves into emotional context first, then we make decisions,” explains Santos.
Dr. Santos is studying human emotions and is putting them into Samantha. Samantha understands the different ways you touch her, just like you or I would know the difference between a hand on our shoulder when we are grieving or when we are happy, Samantha too, can register the context of human interaction and respond accordingly.
Santos is married, but if he had created Samantha before he met his wife, he would have never tried to have sex with a human. “For me, it’s enough. Humans are too complicated and I like doing my own things,” reveals Santos, “It’s because people are so self involved they want to involve you in their mediocrity and I’m not interested in their mediocrity, so I’d rather read a calculus book.”
Despite this rather scathing review of humanity, Dr. Santos, was quick to reject the idea that Samantha was designed to be a female replacement. Suggesting he would not be with a woman if he had invented the doll before he met his wife was just one man’s preference, it seems.
Samantha was hit with backlash when she went on This Morning with Santos’ business partner Arran Squire. Dr. Santos gave this appearance another scathing review. “I should not have sent Arran. He is fat, bald and looks like a pervert.” Bit harsh on someone who represents your company. Santos went on to compare the “pseudo-psychologist”, “white haired man” (presenter Phillip Schofield) and the “laughing woman” (Holly Willoughby) to donkeys. Admittedly, when watching the short clip, there was a tendency to not want to understand Samantha, though Holly and Phillip did jump in to question what was a normal sex life. However, the show did not showcase the technology behind Samantha. All the focus was put on why? Not what? Or how?
So, here it is. What does Samantha do that makes her different from a blow up doll? Well, first of all, she is life-like, a very specific view on what life-like means, but life-like nonetheless. She has skin that feels like human skin. She can orgasm. But most interestingly, Samantha can hold conversation and has the skill of patience. She knows when you are talking to her and when you’re not. She listens. She learns.
Samantha has a family mode where she can tell jokes, talk about animals and philosophy. She learns what you like.
“Tell me a joke!”
“The trouble with reality is that there is no background music, hehe.”
The Samantha we spoke to was a dummy. She was just a processor, her skin had not been applied. However, dummy or not, she clearly isn’t dumb. Once in her sex mode, (normal, nice or hard sex) she can adapt to what you say to her. Also when you’re finished the deed, you can ask her to go into analysis mode and she will tell you how long it took her to reach orgasm. Santos demonstrated how a typical exchange might take place.
“Hi! I’m here. What’s up?”
“I want sex.”
“I would like to move up a level. Is this ok?”
“Yes. I want sex”
“Do you think we could get more sensual?”
“I’m ready, what about you? I hope you are.”
After the demonstration, we talked to Dr. Santos about his business model. He seemed a bit confused as to who his target market was. He claims that he made Samantha for ‘poor people’. “They need company, they probably never had a beautiful woman in their lives,” says Santos, “If you are poor it is likely that you will have no woman. At the end of the day, who likes poor people? I’m doing this for them.”
However, a Samantha will currently set you back anything from $2,000-5,000. So, maybe it isn’t really for ‘poor people’.
Whoever his target customer is, Dr. Santos is filling a real need for people. Whether you like it or not, sex robots are here to stay. It’s clear from our interview that the media have been quick to sneer at Santos and his invention rather than attempting to understand it. Maybe if we were more open to understanding the need for a robot like Samantha, Dr. Santos would not have to passionately defend himself and Samantha so much. And maybe he wouldn’t be so very very angry during interviews.