Considering The Robot Romance

robot romance

I’m thinking about trading in my girlfriend for a few really advanced robots.

Hang on a sec — I know it sounds bad. But hear me out.

Scientists are making leaps and bounds with these things right now. I mean, they’ve come up with artificial life that can conduct psychotherapy, perform exotic dances, and appear to have “high emotional capacity.” Hell, even I don’t have that.

I guess the only thing to do, then, is hold a point-by-point match-up, robot versus relationship. I’ve recruited a handful of top contenders and am ready to put them head-to-head with my human honey. So grab your gloves and get ready: It’s time to head to the ring.

Round 1: An Emotional Connection

We all need someone who can respond to our emotions, right? Well, I may have found her. Er, it. A Japanese researcher swears he’s discovered the secret to building a bot that can look and act just like a human. He made some headlines a couple years back by creating a machine version of himself, complete with his mannerisms and movements.

Of course, the Japanese man model isn’t quite my type when it comes to cuddling (though it does, I must admit, have sublimely taut buttocks). No fear, though; the just-released “strokable rabbit” is ready to step in. The furry little friend, invented by a Canadian scientist, boasts itself as being one of the first forms of artificial intelligence to respond to the human touch. My girlfriend doesn’t even do that half the time.

Okay, not a bad start for the bots. Now let’s see how they fare on empathy. MindMentor’s “robot psychologist” claims to possess the power to listen to your problems and help you work through them. Well, all it really does is sort of paraphrase what you say to keep you talking. But let’s be honest, that’s probably more than enough to meet my horribly stunted emotional capacity.

Hmm. Tough call here, but I think the robots take round one.

Round 2: Sharing My Interests

A relationship is built upon shared interests, so can a glorified Number Five stand up to the challenge? Let’s see. I play the drums. It’d be nice to have someone to accompany me. The girlfriend’s out on this one, but I think the robots may have the upper hand.

Toyota’s been working on music-playing models for a few years now. And an MIT engineer is creating a bot that could help me practice and improve my form. The thing actually uses a set of motors to guide a drummer’s hand and teach him new tricks. Big advantage there. Whenever my girlfriend guides my hand to teach me new tricks, I end up feeling inadequate.

Round two: Robots.

Round 3: Having Some Fun

You’ve gotta have a partner who knows how to have fun. I love a good joke, but even more, I love it when someone else laughs at my jokes (and yes, I consider a booming belch to be a hilarious punchline — I don’t know why my lady doesn’t).

Now enter the joke bot. University of Cincinnati researchers found a way to teach this bad boy how to recognize simple puns. They’re even working on customizing it to relate to different senses of humor, so there’s no doubt this metallic maniac would appreciate my incredibly advanced antics.

So far, so good. But I need more than just someone who can spot a good gag; I might want to boogie. Being that I am, of course, the envy of every dance floor, I need a companion who can keep up with my moves. Cue the dancing robot. This mean machine, from the University of Tokyo, can capture the movements of any advanced dance and then replicate them. Since “the robot” is, in fact, my signature move, I have a feeling this fella will fit right in.

Round three: Robots again. I sense a knockout on the way.

Round 4: Being Happy at Home

We’re nearing the home stretch, and this may be the true test: Can a robot be a good roommate?

First, let’s deal with the downsides. As much as I love strong women, I don’t want anyone who can kick my ass (sorry, American Gladiator Hellga). But a group of German developers have come up with the technology to build a “sensitive robot” that, if I translated correctly, “knows when it has punched you.” This is one feature my current companion definitely does not possess, especially when sleeping. I’ve been on the receiving end of far too many in-bed beatings — and not the good kind. Advantage robots.

So what else could my potential relationship replacements do? Well, we know they can handle all sorts of housework. I sure won’t complain about that. Then there’s the hair transplant robot, on sale from a California company. Yup, I kid you not: The machine can shift your follicles around to make your locks look more lustrous than Sanjaya on salon day. I’m looking pretty lustrous right now, thank you, but you never know what another decade might do to my do.

I hate to say it, but I think I’ve gotta call another round for Team Robot. One more shot before we end this thing.

Round 5: Getting Physical

I can’t complete the fight without the final, and perhaps most important, round. I’ve looked at a lot of robots today, and as excited as I am, I just don’t know that they have what it takes in this last, shall we say, hands-on department. Now, there is The Gripper, a relatively new bot that has a “tiny hand with the gentlest touch.” That might….no, nevermind. It’s just wrong.

You know, something suddenly strikes me: Maybe I’m the one lacking in these areas. I mean, come on — I’ve just spent an entire morning considering whether to replace my girlfriend with a series of robots. Could robots really replace a personal connection? Could a machine possibly help you better yourself? What was I thinking? I’m the one with the emotional void. I need help. I need understanding. And I think, after all this, I know where I can find it.

I just hope that robot psychologist has an open appointment.