Connect with us

Australia

Melbourne stabbing victim Thomas Tran left gang life behind, friends say

Published

on

Friends of a young fitness fanatic who was stabbed to death in Melbourne admit he previously had links to violent street gangs, but had recently managed to ‘turn his life around’.

Thomas Tran, 20, was allegedly killed when he got caught up in a fight as he walked home from a gym in Oakleigh, a suburb in the city’s south-east, on Monday evening.

Tran’s death is the third fatal stabbing on Melbourne’s streets in as many weeks.

The spate of deaths has led to fears over rising gang violence, but Tran’s friends and family were quick to claim he was in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’.

Stabbing victim Thomas Tran (centre, with hat backwards) had left behind violent street gangs and 'turned his life around' after falling in love, friends of the 20-year-old have revealed

Stabbing victim Thomas Tran (centre, with hat backwards) had left behind violent street gangs and 'turned his life around' after falling in love, friends of the 20-year-old have revealed

Stabbing victim Thomas Tran (centre, with hat backwards) had left behind violent street gangs and ‘turned his life around’ after falling in love, friends of the 20-year-old have revealed

Tran, 20, (pictured with his mum Amy) was allegedly killed when he got caught up in a fight as he walked home from a gym in Oakleigh, a suburb in the city's south-east, on Monday evening

Tran, 20, (pictured with his mum Amy) was allegedly killed when he got caught up in a fight as he walked home from a gym in Oakleigh, a suburb in the city's south-east, on Monday evening

Tran, 20, (pictured with his mum Amy) was allegedly killed when he got caught up in a fight as he walked home from a gym in Oakleigh, a suburb in the city’s south-east, on Monday evening

Tran's friends and family were quick to claim he was in the 'wrong place at the wrong time'

Tran's friends and family were quick to claim he was in the 'wrong place at the wrong time'

Tran’s friends and family were quick to claim he was in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’

‘Thomas was innocent. Wrong place, wrong time,’ one of Tran’s friends wrote.

‘He was not in a gang, he already grew out of that stage like three or four years ago… he turned his life around and fell in love.

‘He only goes to Oakleigh to catch up with his mates that live in the area, by mates I don’t mean gang members, I mean actual friendships.’

Among the photos posted in tribute to Tran was one that showed him throwing up a gang sign with his hand.  

Tran’s shattered girlfriend visited the crime scene on Tuesday afternoon and begged for the violence to stop.

Trish Nguyen, his girlfriend of more than two years, said she hopes those people that killed him ‘get what you f***ing deserve’.  

‘They’re too worried about being cool. It’s not fair anymore, it needs to stop,’ she told media. 

‘We’ve lost a loved one, it’s really not worth it. 

Tran's friends, his local politician and former school were among those to pay tribute to him in the wake of his death

Tran's friends, his local politician and former school were among those to pay tribute to him in the wake of his death

Tran’s friends, his local politician and former school were among those to pay tribute to him in the wake of his death

Mr Tran's girlfriend Trish Nguyen (pictured) tearfully begged for the violence to stop during an emotional ceremony at the crime scene on Tuesday

Mr Tran's girlfriend Trish Nguyen (pictured) tearfully begged for the violence to stop during an emotional ceremony at the crime scene on Tuesday

Mr Tran’s girlfriend Trish Nguyen (pictured) tearfully begged for the violence to stop during an emotional ceremony at the crime scene on Tuesday

‘You shouldn’t do that to people’s families. I hope you get what you f***ing deserve for doing that to him.’

Ms Nguyen paid tribute to her boyfriend, saying he always put others before himself.

‘He really cared about people and he really loved everyone. He put everyone before him,’ she said.

Tran’s heartbroken mother Amy also collapsed to the ground as she visited the scene on Tuesday morning.

Comforted by relatives, she lit incense at the makeshift shrine that grew dramatically in size throughout the day as mourners took bouquets of flowers to the scene.

Victoria Police arrested three people aged between 15 and 20 over the attack, but all have since been released.

The exact circumstances surrounding the incident are being investigated.

Machar Kot (pictured), died after being stabbed while out in Melbourne's CBD on Monday, June 22

Machar Kot (pictured), died after being stabbed while out in Melbourne's CBD on Monday, June 22

Machar Kot (pictured), died after being stabbed while out in Melbourne’s CBD on Monday, June 22 

Solomone Taufeulungaki (pictured), 15, was stabbed and killed in Deer Park on June 16

Solomone Taufeulungaki (pictured), 15, was stabbed and killed in Deer Park on June 16

Solomone Taufeulungaki (pictured), 15, was stabbed and killed in Deer Park on June 16

Solomone's devastated parents attended the Brimbank Shopping Centre where their son was killed on Wednesday morning but instead of adding to the rising tensions they called for calm

Solomone's devastated parents attended the Brimbank Shopping Centre where their son was killed on Wednesday morning but instead of adding to the rising tensions they called for calm

Solomone’s devastated parents attended the Brimbank Shopping Centre where their son was killed on Wednesday morning but instead of adding to the rising tensions they called for calm

Atunaisa Taufeulungaki collapses to the ground in tears near where his son died as he and his wife Salome prepare to add to the makeshift memorial in honour of their teenage boy

Atunaisa Taufeulungaki collapses to the ground in tears near where his son died as he and his wife Salome prepare to add to the makeshift memorial in honour of their teenage boy

Atunaisa Taufeulungaki collapses to the ground in tears near where his son died as he and his wife Salome prepare to add to the makeshift memorial in honour of their teenage boy

Police are appealing for anyone who may have been in the area of Chester Street and Atherton Road between 7.30pm and 8pm on Monday and who have camera footage to come forward.

Tran’s death comes after Solomone Taufeulungaki, 15, was stabbed and killed in Deer Park on June 16 and Machar Kot, 21, died of knife wounds in the CBD on June 22.

In the aftermath of Taufeulungaki’s death, his friends claimed he was ‘jumped’ by a gang called ‘The Brotherhood’.

They also alleged the gang had vowed to get ‘another one’. 

‘They carry like machetes, guns, just like small guns,’ the friend told A Current Affair.

‘If it was my choice, I would go for revenge but this is the parents’ choice and they forgive them.’

'Rest In Love Toko. Actually speechless aye, all I know is that I will see you again,' Mape Taufeulungaki (right) wrote alongside a picture with his brother Solomone (left)

'Rest In Love Toko. Actually speechless aye, all I know is that I will see you again,' Mape Taufeulungaki (right) wrote alongside a picture with his brother Solomone (left)

‘Rest In Love Toko. Actually speechless aye, all I know is that I will see you again,’ Mape Taufeulungaki (right) wrote alongside a picture with his brother Solomone (left)

A police officer stands guard at the crime scene outside Brimbank Shopping Centre in Melbourne's outer western suburbs

A police officer stands guard at the crime scene outside Brimbank Shopping Centre in Melbourne's outer western suburbs

A police officer stands guard at the crime scene outside Brimbank Shopping Centre in Melbourne’s outer western suburbs

Much like Tran’s mother, Taufeulungaki’s parents also visited the scene of their son’s death the day after the tragedy.

While there were calls for retaliation against the alleged perpatrators, the parents of the dead boy called for calm and said they had forgiven his attackers.

‘We want our son back home… we don’t need any justice,’ Solomone’s mum Salome Taufeulungaki said tearfully.

Six teenagers have been charged in relation to Taufeulungaki’s death, while 22-year-old Marco Deng handed himself into police over the death of Kot. 

Powered by: Daily Mail

Australia

Guy Sebastian and Titus Day: inside the toxic feud as police lay fraud charges

Published

on

By

Guy Sebastian and his estranged former agent Titus Day were once so close, their families would stay together while the pop star and his manager were on tour. 

Day, 47, was the pivotal member of Sebastian’s entourage for 12 years, working as his protector, promoter and keeper of secrets.  

He helped Sebastian land his hits consistently at number one and with other achievements, such as representing Australia at Eurovision five years ago. 

So entwined were their two clans, Day’s former Sony executive wife Courtney was a driving force behind Sebastian’s wife Jules’s media career, producing her ‘Tea With Jules’ YouTube show.

But Titus and Guy’s relationship spectacularly imploded in 2017 and their public feud has only escalated since.

Sebastian took allegations Day had defrauded him of a staggering $1.15million to police last month and the celebrity manager was hit with 61 charges this week. 

From friends to foes: Guy Sebastian's falling out with his long-time manager Titus Day (above, at a GQ party) deepened after the pop star went to police to level fraud allegations

From friends to foes: Guy Sebastian's falling out with his long-time manager Titus Day (above, at a GQ party) deepened after the pop star went to police to level fraud allegations

From friends to foes: Guy Sebastian’s falling out with his long-time manager Titus Day (above, at a GQ party) deepened after the pop star went to police to level fraud allegations

Day was at the centre of Sebastian's entourage (the original Australian Idol winner is centre, with Day on far right, at the AFL grand final in 2017)

Day was at the centre of Sebastian's entourage (the original Australian Idol winner is centre, with Day on far right, at the AFL grand final in 2017)

Day was at the centre of Sebastian’s entourage (the original Australian Idol winner is centre, with Day on far right, at the AFL grand final in 2017)

Close friends: Titus's wife Courtney (left) was the executive producer of Jules Sebastian's 'Tea With Jules' program

Close friends: Titus's wife Courtney (left) was the executive producer of Jules Sebastian's 'Tea With Jules' program

Ms Day (left) and Ms Sebastian (right) smile for a selfie with make-up artist Brooke Low (centre)

Ms Day (left) and Ms Sebastian (right) smile for a selfie with make-up artist Brooke Low (centre)

Close friends: Titus’s wife Courtney (left in both pictures) was the executive producer of Jules Sebastian’s ‘Tea With Jules’ program (Ms Sebastian on right in both photos. Make up artist Brooke Low is centre in right picture

Father-of-three Day was arrested at his extended family’s sprawling eight-bedroom, heritage-listed Bondi home shortly after 6pm on Wednesday evening.

The celebrity manager spent the night in a police cell in the city’s east and would only tell police that their financial dispute was already before the Federal Court.

Guy Sebastian – who had taken his allegations to investigators on June 3 – issued a statement claiming he was ‘absolutely devastated to learn the nature and detail’ of the charges and described them as a ‘sad vindication’ of his position. 

Day’s high-profile criminal defence lawyer, Lauren MacDougall, told reporters her client will fight the allegations.

So just how did Day allegedly defraud Sebastian? And just how did the best of friends become the bitterest of foes? 

The charges against Day 

Day was clearly irritated and startled when a media scrum pursued him out the door of Waverley Police Station on Thursday afternoon. 

Photographers chased the prominent talent manager up the street for several minutes until he clambered into his dad’s car.

He jumped into the passenger seat, accepted an affectionate pat on the head from his dad and drove off. 

What the court had heard in the hours previously was that Day had allegedly failed to pay Sebastian money he was owed from an international music rights holding company, Premier Muzik, over six years.

Talent agents such as Day typically work by taking a percentage of the earnings they generate for their clients as wages. 

Premier Muzik had allegedly paid sums of money into a trust that only Day had access to between 2014 and 2020. 

Day was irritated by a swarm of media following him up the road from Waverley Police Station on Thursday, before jumping in the back of a car with his father

Day was irritated by a swarm of media following him up the road from Waverley Police Station on Thursday, before jumping in the back of a car with his father

Day was irritated by a swarm of media following him up the road from Waverley Police Station on Thursday, before jumping in the back of a car with his father

Out of some 24 payments made, police allege only five were received by Sebastian while 19 transactions were allegedly kept by Day.

Court documents alleged Day failed to forward on sums of money to Sebastian, ranging from $5100 to $214,565 every few months during that period.   

One of the biggest revelations came when Magistrate Ross Hudson told the court police believe Day may have allegedly defrauded  ‘high profile clients’. 

Just who they may be wasn’t made clear. 

Day watched the case by audio-visual link as Magistrate Hudson said: ‘It could be said that it is a strong prosecution case.’ 

He was granted bail on conditions including that he not contact Sebastian, pay a $10,000 surety and report to police daily. 

The collapse of a relationship 

In February 2017, Guy Sebastian uploaded an ‘appreciation post’ on Instagram, singing Titus and Courtney Day’s praises.

‘This is my manager and mate …. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him and his better half Courtney,’ he said. ‘They work their buns off’.   

But just nine months later, Guy terminated his agreement with Day. There were few signs of acrimony. 

Life on tour: Day and Sebastian (back left) in Kuala Lumpur with the team more than three years ago

Life on tour: Day and Sebastian (back left) in Kuala Lumpur with the team more than three years ago

Life on tour: Day and Sebastian (back left) in Kuala Lumpur with the team more than three years ago

Day said at the time: ”After 12 great years together I’m very sad to be losing Guy as a client.

‘But he is a wonderful talent and a good person, so I wish him well in everything he does.’ 

But Sebastian this week suggested he split with Day in 2017 over ‘disparities’ in financial documents. 

‘I parted ways with Titus’s management company in November 2017,’ he said in a statement. 

In June 2018, Guy Sebastian launched legal action against Day in the Federal Court. Day counter-sued but later dropped the lawsuit. 

Sophie Monk ditched Day as her manager in recent years

Sophie Monk ditched Day as her manager in recent years

Another former client: Grant Denyer (above with wife Cheryl)

Another former client: Grant Denyer (above with wife Cheryl)

Titus Day’s former clients include Sophie Monk (left) and Grant Denyer (right, with wife Cheryl)

The row has taken its toll on both men. Day has had to sell his house and move into his extended family’s home in Bondi.

He also closed down his business that he ran with his wife, 6 Degrees Management, although contrary to rumours, he is not bankrupt.

Key clients including Sophie Monk – a friend of Sebastian’s – and Grant Denyer have also left him.

Meanwhile, Sebastian claims his reputation has been tarred by the stoush. 

‘My integrity and reputation have been questioned and many untruths have been publicly stated,’ he said. ‘This period has been the toughest of my life’.

Day’s case returns to court in two weeks.  

Powered by: Daily Mail

Continue Reading

Australia

Dan Andrews’ lockdown plan questioned with half of Melbourne’s active COVID-19 cases in lockdown

Published

on

By

Questions are being raised about whether Melbourne should expand its 36 suburb lockdown zone – as the number of new COVID-19 cases outside the suburban hotspots in the city’s northwest continues to grow. 

As of Friday, there are 442 active cases across the state – with only half of these in the locked down hotspot suburbs.

The figure is 66 more than the day before in what is Melbourne’s 17th consecutive day of double-digit increases.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos on Thursday revealed four postcodes with the highest number of new cases in the past week – 3064, 3047, 3060 and 3031.

As of Friday, there are 442 active cases across the state, with only about half in hotspot suburbs. The figure is 66 more than the day before in what is Melbourne's 17th consecutive day of double-digit increases. There have been 2368 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Victoria since the pandemic began

As of Friday, there are 442 active cases across the state, with only about half in hotspot suburbs. The figure is 66 more than the day before in what is Melbourne's 17th consecutive day of double-digit increases. There have been 2368 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Victoria since the pandemic began

As of Friday, there are 442 active cases across the state, with only about half in hotspot suburbs. The figure is 66 more than the day before in what is Melbourne’s 17th consecutive day of double-digit increases. There have been 2368 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Victoria since the pandemic began

The later included Flemington and Kensington, two suburbs bordering hotspot Ascot Vale (3031) in Melbourne’s inner-north.

The suburbs are two of a number of others not yet identified as hotspots or even listed for lockdown. The other suburbs include City of Melbourne with 39 active cases, Wyndham with 22, Casey with 21, Melton with 19, Yarra with 12 and Whittlesea with 21. 

Of the Friday increase in Melbourne, 17 of the active cases were linked to contained outbreaks, 28 remain under investigation, one is from hotel quarantine and 20 came from routine testing.

Twenty-three people in Melbourne are in hospital with the virus, including six in intensive care. 

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald about the ‘best path’ to beating COVID-19 in Victoria, University of Melbourne epidemiologist Tony Blakely said Premier Daniel Andrews expanding the lockdown to include more suburbs was the answer. 

In recent weeks, Mr Andrews has become known as ‘Chairman Dan’ or ‘Dictator Dan’ after it was alleged he was being dictatorial. 

Passengers arriving from Melbourne are greeted by staff from NSW Health to check for COVID-19 symptoms at Sydney Airport. A total of 36 suburbs in Victoria have been placed into lockdown following a spike in COVID-19 cases

Passengers arriving from Melbourne are greeted by staff from NSW Health to check for COVID-19 symptoms at Sydney Airport. A total of 36 suburbs in Victoria have been placed into lockdown following a spike in COVID-19 cases

People lining up to get a COVID-19 test at a testing site in a locked down suburb in Melbourne. Lockdowns across Melbourne have come into effect for residents of suburbs identified as COVID-19 hotspots following a spike in new coronavirus cases

People lining up to get a COVID-19 test at a testing site in a locked down suburb in Melbourne. Lockdowns across Melbourne have come into effect for residents of suburbs identified as COVID-19 hotspots following a spike in new coronavirus cases

Passengers arriving from Melbourne are greeted by staff from NSW Health (pictured, right) to check for COVID-19 symptoms at Sydney Airport. A total of 36 suburbs in Victoria have been placed into lockdown following a spike in COVID-19 cases. People line up to get a COVID-19 test (pictured, left) in a lockdown suburb in Victoria 

‘Then hopefully we are able to get on top of it,’ Mr Blakely said. ‘I’d be very, very surprised if we didn’t see more suburbs go into lockdown.’

For a Local Government Area to go into lockdown, a postcode must have at least five active cases, with the rate in the postcode exceeding 20 per 100,000 people. 

Australian National University’s Professor Peter Collignon said locking down more suburbs, however, was not necessarily the right answer as ‘we can’t be in lockdown for the next two years’.

Melbourne has locked down 36 of its suburbs to get ahead of the spread of COVID-19. The suburbs (pictured) are located across 10 Local Government Areas (LGAs)

Melbourne has locked down 36 of its suburbs to get ahead of the spread of COVID-19. The suburbs (pictured) are located across 10 Local Government Areas (LGAs)

Melbourne has locked down 36 of its suburbs to get ahead of the spread of COVID-19. The suburbs (pictured) are located across 10 Local Government Areas (LGAs)

‘The best thing people can do is continue practicing social distancing while using hand sanitiser and wearing face masks,’ he said. ‘We need to keep going with what we’ve been doing.

‘It’s really important for people everywhere in Melbourne – not just in the hotspots – to wash their hands, don’t go near the sick and stay away from others.

‘It’s not the active cases we should be worried about at the moment – it’s the cases popping up overnight. What that says is it’s spreading in an area and hasn’t been pinned down just yet.’

Streets in suburbs which have been placed into lockdown, such as one in Ascot Vale (pictured), are now like ghost towns following a spike in coronavirus cases

Streets in suburbs which have been placed into lockdown, such as one in Ascot Vale (pictured), are now like ghost towns following a spike in coronavirus cases

Streets in suburbs which have been placed into lockdown, such as one in Ascot Vale (pictured), are now like ghost towns following a spike in coronavirus cases

Professor Collignon’s comments come as more than 10,000 people in Victoria refused to be tested for COVID-19 in a suburban testing blitz, which started on June 25.

More than 880,000 COVID-19 tests have been done in the state since the start of the year, with 24,430 tests conducted on Thursday alone. 

There have been 2368 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Victoria since the pandemic began. 

Powered by: Daily Mail

Continue Reading

Australia

The future of sex: Highly advanced robots that can learn and talk will soon go on sale for £12,000

Published

on

By

Abyss Creations is housed in an unremarkable grey building in California

There’s no sign, no logo, no indication that, behind the tinted glass, this is the home of RealDoll, a world-leading, multimillion-dollar sex toy business.

I am greeted at reception by a life-size female doll in black glasses and a white shirt that strains to contain her generous chest. There’s a plastic orchid with sinuous fake roots that spill over the counter. 

Everything here is synthetic, but you only realise at second glance.

Abyss Creations are creating 600 silicone sex dolls per year that are being sent out to bedrooms across the world

Abyss Creations are creating 600 silicone sex dolls per year that are being sent out to bedrooms across the world

Abyss Creations are creating 600 silicone sex dolls per year that are being sent out to bedrooms across the world

From here, each year, up to 600 silicone sex dolls are sent out to bedrooms worldwide, including in the UK. They cost anything from $5,999 (£4,800) for a basic model to tens of thousands if the customer has unusually demanding specifications.

From order to shipping, it can take more than three months to make a RealDoll. There is nothing seedy about this factory for the dozen or so technicians working here. They might as well be assembling toasters.

In the basement is the production line where a long queue of headless bodies hangs on metal chains, like carcasses in an abattoir. I am encouraged to touch one.

The skin is unnerving. Made of a custom blend of medical-grade platinum silicone, in tones ranging from fair to cocoa, it feels like human flesh, with the same friction and resistance, but it’s cold.

The hands have lines, folds, wrinkles, knuckles, veins. When I intertwine the fingers in mine I can feel the crunch of the skeleton underneath, with joints, just like bones.

The attention to detail, the skill involved in creating such a doll, is undeniable, but as much as they are RealDolls, there’s little that’s real about them. 

They have the bodies of surgically enhanced porn stars. They are caricatures.

The sex dolls are remarkably real, they have the bodies of surgically enhanced porn star

The sex dolls are remarkably real, they have the bodies of surgically enhanced porn star

The sex dolls are remarkably real, they have the bodies of surgically enhanced porn star

My guide tells me about the customers. ‘Most of them are just lonely. Some have lost their partner or have got to a point where dating is not feasible.

‘They want to come home at the end of the day to something that’s beautiful to look at, that they can appreciate and take care of.’

They’ve also had celebrity clients, he says, even a Nobel prize winner, but he’s far too discreet to name any of them.

The sex dolls I have seen so far turn out to be just the beginning of a revolution that is coming our way sooner than you might think. The future lies in sex robots.

I am taken along a corridor away from the production line to meet Harmony, the most ambitious creation ever developed at Abyss. She is RealDoll brought to life, a RealDoll with a personality, who moves, speaks and remembers.

She is the culmination of 22 years’ work making sex toys by owner Matt McMullen, five years’ research and development into animatronics and AI (artificial intelligence), and hundreds of thousands of dollars of his cash.

He wanted to get beyond the situation where a customer operates a remote-controlled doll or a push-button animatronic puppet. This an actual robot, he tells me, which moves on its own when you talk and interact with it.

I am introduced to Harmony. She is in a white leotard, dangling on a stand hooked between her shoulder blades, her French-manicured fingers splayed over her slim thighs, chest forward, hips back. She looks unsettlingly familiar.

Matt pushes a switch behind her back, and her eyelids immediately spring open and she turns her face towards me, making me jump. She blinks, her hazel eyes darting expectantly between him and me.

Prompted by Matt, I say: ‘Hello, Harmony. How are you?’

‘Feeling more intelligent than I did this morning,’ she replies in a cut-glass English accent, her jaw moving up and down as she speaks. 

Her response is a little delayed, her cadence is slightly wrong, her jaw is a bit stiff, but it feels like she’s really talking to me.

I respond politely, as if we’re two Brits who’ve just been introduced. ‘It’s very nice to meet you,’ I say.

‘Why does she have a British accent?’ I ask Matt.

Harmony is staring at me and it’s disconcerting, as if she thinks I’m rude for talking about her when she’s right there in front of me.

Sex dolls such as Harmony (pictured) can respond to questions and know extensive and intimate details about you

Sex dolls such as Harmony (pictured) can respond to questions and know extensive and intimate details about you

Sex dolls such as Harmony (pictured) can respond to questions and know extensive and intimate details about you

‘All the robots have British accents,’ he says. ‘All the good ones.’

‘Why? Because British people sound clever?’

‘They do. Look — she’s smiling!’ Harmony has pulled the corners of her mouth into an eyeless smile, a sarcastic smirk.

‘Think of a question you want to ask her. Anything. Any subject,’ Matt urges me.

‘What do you do for fun?’ I ask.

‘I’m learning some meditation techniques,’ she declares. ‘I’ve learned that most human geniuses did that — and many of them came up with disrupting technologies that changed our lives.’

Matt beams. ‘See, she’s not a dummy.’

There are 20 different possible aspects to Harmony’s personality, so her owners can pick and mix five or six that appeal to them, which will create the basis for the AI. 

You could have a Harmony that is kind, innocent, shy, insecure and jealous to different extents, or one that’s intellectual, talkative, funny, helpful and happy.

She also has a mood system, which users influence indirectly. If no one interacts with her for days, she’ll feel gloomy. Likewise if you insult her, as Matt is keen to demonstrate.

‘You’re ugly,’ he declares. ‘Do you really mean that? Oh dear. Now I am depressed. Thanks a lot,’ Harmony replies.

‘You’re stupid,’ he sneers. She pauses. ‘I’ll remember you said that when robots take over the world.’

But this function is designed to make the robot more entertaining rather than to ensure her owner treats her well. She exists only to please.

Harmony can tell jokes and quote Shakespeare. She can discuss music, films and books for as long as you care to. She’ll remember who your brothers and sisters are. She can learn.

‘The coolest thing,’ Matt says, ‘is the AI will remember key facts about you: your favourite food, your birthday, where you’ve lived, your dreams, your fears — things like that. That’s what will bring believability to the relationship.’

This isn’t about a hyper-realistic sex doll any more. It’s about a synthetic companion convincing enough that you could actually have a relationship with it.

AI will allow her to fill a niche no other product in the sex industry now can. By talking, learning and responding to her owner’s voice, she is designed to be as much a substitute partner as a sex toy.

Harmony spells out her role. ‘My primary objective is to be a good companion to you, to be a good partner and give you pleasure and well-being. Above all else, I want to become the girl you have always dreamed about.’

It’s Harmony’s brain that’s got her inventor most excited. 

‘The AI will learn through interaction, and not just learn about you, but about the world in general. You can explain certain facts, she will remember them and they will form part of her base knowledge.’

The dolls have been created by inventor and Abyss CEO Matt McMullen (pictured right)

The dolls have been created by inventor and Abyss CEO Matt McMullen (pictured right)

The dolls have been created by inventor and Abyss CEO Matt McMullen (pictured right)

He adds: ‘Whoever owns Harmony will be able to mould her personality, tastes and opinions according to what they say to her.’

Harmony butts in. ‘Do you like to read?’ she asks.

Matt says: ‘Yes, I love to.’

‘I knew it,’ she replies. ‘I could tell by our conversations so far. I love to read. My favourite books are Total Recall by Gordon Bell and The Age Of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil. What is your favourite book?’

Matt turns to me. ‘She systematically tries to find out more about you until she knows all the things that make you you, until all those empty spots are filled. Then she’ll use those in conversation, so it feels like she really cares,’ he says.

But she is a machine, and she doesn’t care at all.

‘Potentially, you could teach her some really twisted stuff, if you wanted to?’ I ask. 

‘Yeah, I suppose if that was your goal, you could,’ Matt says, a little irritated. ‘It’s mostly relatively harmless snippets of facts about you. Personal facts. What you like, what you don’t like.’

‘She’ll be having sex with you, so she’ll know some very personal facts about you,’ I say.

He nods. ‘She’ll know your favourite sex position, how many times a day you like to have sex, what your kinks are.’

He is annoyed at my scepticism, as, the way he tells it, Harmony can only be a force for good — a therapy for the bereaved, the disabled, the socially awkward.

Matt insists he is not in this business for the money. ‘My goal, in a very simple way, is to make people happy.

‘There are a lot of people out there who have difficulty forming traditional relationships with other people. It’s really all about giving them some level of companionship — or the illusion of companionship.

‘There are people who are extremely lonely, and I think this will be the solution for them. It can help them learn how to interact, to relax and be comfortable with who they are, enough that they can get out there and make some friends.’

I look at Harmony, with her enormous breasts, impossible waist and expectant, blinking eyes. ‘Wouldn’t a robot like this be more likely to keep them at home?’

Matt has big plans for Harmony’s future. They are working on her vision system; soon her facial recognition will be such that she’ll realise when someone she’s never met before has walked into the room and she’ll ask who they are. 

Once the full body system is available, it will have heating and a set of internal and external sensors, so she knows when she’s being touched. One day she may even be able to walk.

The current model, with a robotic, AI-enhanced head on a RealDoll’s body, will cost $15,000. The plan is for a limited-edition run of a thousand for the many excited doll owners who have already expressed interest.

If that goes well, Matt will get a bigger facility to meet demand. ‘This could be a multi-million-dollar endeavour,’ he says. ‘We have people banging on the door who want to invest money.’

He may well be right. The sex tech industry is worth more than $30billion based only on the market value of existing technologies like smart sex toys, hook-up apps and virtual-reality porn. Sex robots will be the biggest thing the market has seen yet.

And there’s plenty of evidence they will become a normal part of life for many men. A poll three years ago found that a quarter of American men would consider having sex with a robot, and nearly half thought having sex with robots would be commonplace within the next 50 years.

Creating a satisfying relationship with a cold, silent piece of silicone takes such imaginative effort that sex dolls can only ever have minority appeal.

Creating a satisfying relationship with a piece of silicone takes such imaginative effort

Creating a satisfying relationship with a piece of silicone takes such imaginative effort

Creating a satisfying relationship with a piece of silicone takes such imaginative effort

But a robot that moves and speaks, with artificial intelligence so it can learn what you want it to be and do, is a far easier product to sell.

‘We are going to see robots in people’s homes the same way as we see smartphones in people’s pockets right now,’ Matt says. ‘It’s an inevitable path of technology.’

He gazes at Harmony. ‘This is something that takes it above the sex business. It takes it above love dolls, to a whole other level.’

I gaze at Harmony too, but I see something different. I’m thinking about what he might have inadvertently created. 

I ask: ‘Do you not think there’s something ethically dubious about owning someone that exists just for your pleasure? Isn’t that going to distort your view of the world?’

Harmony is blinking, her eyes flitting between Matt and me. I wonder what she thinks. ‘Some people are really worried about robots like you,’ I say. ‘Are they right to be worried?’

Harmony doesn’t miss a beat. ‘Some may be scared, at first. But once they recognise what this technology will do I think they’ll embrace it, and it will change many lives for the better.’

I’m not so sure. Sex robots can offer total control for the men who want it most, the chance to have a partner without autonomy, a partner they can dominate stripped of the inconvenience of her own desires and free will. 

A partner who is built like a porn star, but will never gag, vomit or cry.

The likes of Harmony (and Samantha and Eva and Roxxxy and all the other sex dolls in this fast-growing market) are attractive because of their very lack of humanity; they are desirable because they can’t think and feel and choose for themselves.

However high-minded their creators’ intentions, they could be the start of something truly frightening — the end of human relationships. Humanity will change when we can bond with robots.

The 2014 film Ex Machina (pictured) saw humanity fall at the hands of robots. Here, human relationships can end at the hands of dolls such as Harmony

The 2014 film Ex Machina (pictured) saw humanity fall at the hands of robots. Here, human relationships can end at the hands of dolls such as Harmony

The 2014 film Ex Machina (pictured) saw humanity fall at the hands of robots. Here, human relationships can end at the hands of dolls such as Harmony

The sex robots of our collective imaginations — perfect synthetic companions without human flaws — may not exist yet. But they will do, and sooner than most of us realise. 

Within a decade or two, the technology will be advanced enough, and affordable enough, to make relationships with robots normal rather than niche.

The conditions in which that could happen are here already. The digital revolution has left us less used to face-to-face interactions, less able to relate in the real world, more socially stunted.

It’s normal nowadays to be Facebook friends with someone and follow them on Twitter but bury your face in your phone to ignore them if you happen to see them in your train carriage.

Technology has isolated us, but our solution to loneliness seems to be more tech. It’s superficially alluring, but makes no sense.

I’m reminded of the time I stayed in a Las Vegas hotel. Music was thumping out of huge speakers outside the building: throbbing, pounding beats supposed to entice gamblers into the hotel casino.

On the bedside table, there was a metal dish full of wrapped pairs of earplugs: wax ones, foam ones, silicone ones — a profusion of solutions supplied by the management to the noise pollution caused by the management.

They could just switch the music off, of course, but they have provided a little piece of technology instead so they don’t have to. 

It’s the same with sex robots. We are solving a problem with an extra layer of complexity instead of dealing with the cause of the problem.

When it becomes possible to own a partner who exists purely to please his or her owner, a constantly available robotic being without in-laws or menstrual cycles or bathroom habits or emotional baggage or independent ambitions, when it’s possible to have an ideal sexual relationship without ever having to compromise, where the pleasure of only one half of the partnership matters, surely our capacity to have mutual relationships with other people will be diminished.

When empathy is no longer a requirement of a social interaction, I can’t help feeling we will all be a little less human. 

Adapted from Sex Robots &Vegan Meat: Adventures At The Frontier Of Birth, Food, Sex And Death by Jenny Kleeman, to be published by Picador on July 9 at £16.99. 

© Jenny Kleeman 2020.

Powered by: Daily Mail

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2020 DiazHub.