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Did you know that a robot has been given legal citizenship and personhood? People are obsessed with lifelike robots and dolls. What makes us so fascinated with objects that resemble us? In this GKIS article, we will be exploring several types of lifelike automatons and dolls as well as the psychology behind our obsession with them. If you are unsure of how to protect your tweens’ and teens’ growing reliance on technology and obsession with online presence, Dr. Bennett’s Social Media Readiness Online Course will give you the answers you are looking for and help you to navigate through these ever-changing waters!

What is the difference between an automaton and a doll?

While some may use the words interchangeably, there is a huge difference between an automaton and a doll. Most importantly, automatons are mechanized robots, while dolls do not move by themselves. Another important difference is the trend to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) into lifelike automatons. Artificial intelligence is a program that allows a computer to mimic the human mind, which allows it to make changes to itself. The advancement of artificial intelligence has stoked new interest and debate about morality and personhood. After all, the more advanced artificial intelligence gets, the more these robots resemble actual humans. It may not be too far off until we see a robot that possesses an actual consciousness.


Sophia is one of the most famous lifelike robots in the world. She is an ultra-realistic humanoid robot with advanced artificial intelligence. She can hold conversations with people and has been on several press tours and has done numerous interviews where she converses with people and discusses what it is like to be her. She has even been on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Honestly, it is pretty trippy to watch.

While the fact that she can hold intelligible conversations with people is impressive, it is even more monumental that she has citizenship. In 2017, Saudi Arabia gave Sophia citizenship, making her the first AI to be given legal personhood and human rights.[1] While this may be more of a marketing strategy for Hanson Robotics and positive publicity for Saudi Arabia, the fact remains that a robot has been given legal autonomy.


Lifelike robots are also being considered as labor options. Erica is a robot developed by roboticist, Hiroshi Ishiguro. She has lifelike skin, hair, and facial expressions. Like Sophia, she also utilizes AI to hold conversations, read, and recognize human faces. She currently has her own YouTube channel and appears on television in Japan as a news anchor.[2] While she can not move her limbs, she can move her neck and waist to turn toward people. Erica’s lifelike facial movements and ability to read and recite the news have given her a bit of celebrity status in Japan.

Sex Robots

Did you know there is a huge market for sex robots? Sex robots are lifelike, anatomically correct androids that are built for pleasure. These robots can be ordered to look and sound however the buyer wants. They can also be programmed to say specific phrases and respond in specific ways. They can also run different scenarios to simulate realistic experiences. Unfortunately, rape scenarios are available. If you are curious about sex robots, look out for my upcoming article here on GKIS.

Reborn Dolls

Reborn dolls are lifelike dolls made by artists, that usually resemble babies or toddlers. These dolls are extremely realistic and have garnered an entire subculture of fans who are dedicated to them. While they do not move, speak, or communicate in any way, the people that own them treat them as if they were real children.

Some people use these dolls for therapeutic purposes. There have been instances where mothers who have lost their babies have had lifelike dolls made in their child’s likeness to deal with their grief. They have also been used to deal with infertility, miscarriages, and depression.

Super Dollfie

Volks is an action figure/doll company that makes anatomically correct, hyper-realistic figures. If you are having a hard time imagining this, think Barbie with all the naughty bits. These figures are highly sought after by collectors and go for exorbitant prices. They are extremely customizable, and you can even buy clothing for them that is more finely detailed than most of the stuff in the average person’s closet. The attention to detail on these things is insane.  All the clothing, hair, and body parts can be changed out to make the doll look however you want it to.

Possible Reasons Why People are Obsessed with Lifelike Robots and Dolls

  • People are curious by nature
  • People get lonely
  • People look for connection and meaning everywhere
  • There is no risk of rejection
  • Some people have social anxiety

Staying Informed and Keeping Your Family Safe

Dr. B is in a unique position to help you to learn more about the potential dangers that your family could face when engaging with the internet and technology. As a practicing psychologist, university professor, and mother, she can help you and your family safely traverse the digital world we live in.

In Dr. B’s book, Screen Time in the Mean Time, she discusses and attacks the issue of raising a family while safely integrating technology rather than fearing it. Also, you can download the free GKIS Connected Family Agreement simply by creating a GKIS account on our website home page. If you are looking for other fun and informative stories, check out the GKIS Blog. For other useful tips about how to make the internet a safer place for your family, you can get parenting and family coaching information, support, and other valuable information from the GKIS Screen Safety Essentials Course.

Thanks to CSUCI intern, Michael Watson for researching lifelike automatons and dolls.

I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.

Onward to More Awesome Parenting,

Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty

Works Cited

[1] Reynolds, E. (2018). The agony of Sophia, the world’s first robot citizen condemned to a lifeless career in marketing. Wired. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/sophia-robot-citizen-womens-rights-detriot-become-human-hanson-robotics

[2] Specktor, B. (2018). Meet Erica, Japan’s next robot news anchor. Live Science. https://www.livescience.com/61575-erica-robot-replace-japanese-news-anchor.html

Photo Credits

Photo by Compare Fibre (https://unsplash.com/photos/IaX5aH9spPk)

Photo by Possessed Photography (https://unsplash.com/photos/YKW0JjP7rlU)

Photo by Sigrid Wu (https://unsplash.com/photos/KSTM340nmyA)

Photo by Arteum.ro (https://unsplash.com/photos/7H41oiADqqg)


Thanks to Kent Williams for the beautiful painting used for the thumbnail. (https://www.kentwilliams.com/paintings/2018/8/16/2018/8/16/m-w)