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US$100 says grandmas and grandkids won’t be the first to use the robot hand

April 27th, 2010 · No Comments

Professor Liu Yunhui leads a team in Hong Kong that has produced an internet-enabled robot hand. Connect the hand to a network and it will perform movements on one end of the connection based on the commands it receives from the other end.

In other words, it’s another consumer-level entry into the realm of internet-enabled appliances. Also known as teledildonics. Only in this case it’s a little bit sneaker than systems like HighJoy.


Unlike the industrial robot arm of the telerobotic garden of 1996, which let you water seedlings by controlling a robot over the internet, a hand is actually a sexual body part. But it’s not immediately sexual in the way a vibrator or butt plug is. And this particular manifestation will be relatively affordable: about $100 each, according to The Independent.

That means it will get a ton of press and start to infiltrate sitcoms and talk shows and CSI:Wherever and get people more accustomed to the idea that tech-enabled touch is not necessarily a gateway to a Terminator or Matrix universe. Even the mainstream press has started hinting that the hand will have implications for social media and online dating services.

Of course, that’s the zinger at the end, the subversive afterthought, the application that must be implied but not stated. Like all technological developments that have obvious sexual components, the initial use will apparently be among the most benign of circumstances.

“Although they can show their care through phone calls, physical touch is still a better way to express love. With the system, elderly people and their children and grandchildren can touch and hold hands via the internet and show affection directly,’ Liu said [according to this article].

I wonder why people assume that grandma’s first use of such technology would be to communicate with the grandkids? Does anyone really believe that sexuality ends the moment a grandchild is born? I can think of at least five things I plan to do with a telerobotic hand when I’m 80, and that’s without even trying. If, by then, the hand will be attached to a complete body running on the latest EmotIntel™ operating system, so much the better.

I suppose you and I should prepare to speak to another round of panic about technological touch replacing human connection.

On a personal note, re-reading some of my past columns about teledildonics made me nostalgic. How long ago it all seems!

Online Dating Meets Cybersex, 2005

Ins and Outs of Teledildonics, 2004

Second Life Gets Sexier, 2006

Tags: hardware · software