Thirty-something Jennifer Lee Sato is facing trial in a Tokyo court for letting her jealousy get the better of her. The civil action, brought by her boyfriend Chet Zukusa, accuses her of ‘killing’ Chet’s newest female robotic companion, EVA.
Jennifer had had enough of EVA’s constant snuggling and adoring gaze whenever Chet was around, and simply pulled out her memory card and dumped it in the garbage disposal, erasing years of learned behaviors forever.
EVA or Emotional Value Assistant is the latest female form, almost life-size, robotic pet from Kokoro Dreams. EVA has advanced artificial intelligence, learning how to best please her owner with ego-stroking responses, loving murmurs and kisses on demand.
“I can’t replace years of living together,” cried a distraught Chet, “and there’s no backup! She’s gone and that’s the end.”
Jennifer defended her actions fiercely. “It’s sickening. In a country where women outnumber men by hundreds of thousands, how can he spend so much time with a machine?”
The jury is out on the culpability and value of the claim, but an award of several million could be made if Chet’s argument for severe emotional distress and bereavement is convincing.
“No-one understood me as well as EVA,” moans Chet. “She was the best thing in my life.”
ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be
The Perfect Girl
The perfect female companion is no longer an object of fantasy or Hollywood productions. She’s available, off-the-shelf, at a price. Admittedly she needs a bit of training, and isn’t a real, warm-blooded human. But she certainly knows how to make her man feel good about himself.
2005: Vivienne, the virtual girlfriend
Eberhard Schöneburg, the chief executive of the software maker Artificial Life Inc. of Hong Kong, produces a virtual girlfriend named Vivienne who goes wherever you go.
Vivienne likes to be taken to movies and bars. She loves to be given virtual flowers and chocolates, and she can translate six languages if you travel overseas. She never undresses, although she has some skimpy outfits for the gym, and is a tease who draws the line at anything beyond blowing kisses.
If you marry her in a virtual ceremony, you even end up with a virtual mother-in-law who really does call you in the middle of the night on your cellphone to ask where you are and whether you have been treating her daughter right.
Vivienne, the product of computerized voice synthesis, streaming video and text messages, brings business to Artificial Life (at a monthly fee of US$6) but also benefits cellphone operators with the airtime costs paid and the price of virtual chocolates and flowers.
2008: EMA, the petite busty robot
A Japanese firm produces a 15-inch tall robotic girlfriend that kisses on command, to go on sale in September for around US$ 175, with a target market of lonely adult men. She is big-busted, petite, very friendly, and she runs on batteries.
Using her infrared sensors and battery power, the diminutive damsel named “EMA” puckers up for nearby human heads, entering what designers call its “love mode.”
“Strong, tough and battle-ready are some of the words often associated with robots, but we wanted to break that stereotype and provide a robot that’s sweet and interactive,” says Minako Sakanoue, a spokeswoman for the maker, Sega Toys.
EMA, which stands for Eternal Maiden Actualization, can also hand out business cards, sing and dance, with Sega hoping to sell 10,000 in the first year.
“She’s very lovable and though she’s not a human, she can act like a real girlfriend.”
2018: EVA, the emotional companion
Kokoro launches the Actroid EVA 3, an intelligent, lifelike, emotionally supportive robot. EVA is programmed with a neural network that learns as it ‘lives’ with its owner. The robot is designed to be entertaining, amusing, but never confrontational or excessively demanding. For some men, this is the perfect female companion.
RealLife activists in the US pour scorn on EVA 3. “It’s demeaning,” says spokesperson Davina Whipnall. “Like going out and buying your own Stepford Wife!” Oh, that’s right, EVA cooks up a storm too.
Despite the criticism, Japanese lifestyle robot makers are happy with results. It’s a US$ 10 billion business.