Writer Patrick Lin once pondered humanity's future relationship with artificial intelligence. By making robots mimic human behaviours, he wrote in Forbes, people may be able to develop a deep emotional affinity toward them. He also questioned whether we could become co-dependent or overly attached to them.
As technology continues to advance, robots have already begun replacing human workers in some industries. But will they be able to take the place of humans when it comes to our more primitive needs? This is the question posed by Swiss-Mexican designer Nicole Pérez’s series of Misbehaving (ro)bots.
Designed to imitate the more annoying features of intimate relationships, this quirky trio of robots form Perez’s graduation project for her MA in Material Futures at Central Saint Martins, London. While most robots or artificially intelligent beings are built to assist humans, these robots have a slightly cheekier function.Pérez’s robots intentionally mimic annoying human behaviour like pinching and pulling at clothing, poking, and smearing lipstick on pillows. Though these don’t seem like human traits any of us particularly enjoy, they’re part and parcel of relationships and characterise the innate messiness of humanity.
“Their purpose is not to be efficient but unnecessary, fulfilling the non-practical, useless actions that we feel in a relationship,” explained Pérez. “After all, being in an intimate relationship is not only about dealing with pleasure and fun – it is also about dealing with the rest.”
By exploring these "often overlooked frustrating" and "not always entirely pleasurable" aspects of human relationships, Pérez successfully demonstrates the ways in which our virtual and real worlds are becoming increasingly inseparable and intertwined. Whether the mischevious bots will provide an adequate replacement for human intimacy remains to be seen.