Photo by Bobby Yip/ Reuters

Scarlett’s Robo-Clone: Weird Science or Perverting Nature?

April 5, 2016
Using a 3D printer, some electric motors and A LOT of free time, a robot hobbyist in Hong Kong has made a robotic Hollywood starlet, building a bridge over the uncanny valley and right into uncomfortable territory.

In the movie "Weird Science," Kelly LeBrock’s character Lisa was brought to life more by magic than machinery. Back then, having your very own supermodel was purely fantasy. Three decades later, we no longer need imagination; we have the technology.

This was proved when news broke that a 42-year-old Hong Kong man, Ricky Ma, who is just a guy, not some Elon Musk/ Steve Jobs hybrid like the guy in “Ex Machina,” actually created a lifelike robotic woman who bears more than a passing resemblance to Scarlett Johansson.

Ricky Ma spending time with his Mark 1.
Photo by Bobby Yip/ Reuters

In "Lucy," Scarlett Johansson's character mind-melds with a supercomputer.
Life imitating art, or do we live in "The Matrix" and none of this is real?
Photo courtesy Universal

Ma is playing coy about which Hollywood star he modeled his prototype, called the Mark 1, after. Vanilla Ice’s argument that “Ice Ice Baby” was different than “Under Pressure” is more plausible.

Who he made a robo-doppleganger of and what he does with it as night is his business.

The big story here is that some random guy with no previous expertise in electromechanics or programming built a pretty realistic, if not downright gorgeous, robot woman. And he did it with readily available technology.

According to Reuters, Ma 3D-printed 70% of the android’s body, including the rib cage and pelvis, and covered the frame in silicone skin.

In Genesis, God took a rib from Adam to create Eve; Ricky Ma just 3D printed a
whole rib cage for his synthetic woman, lovingly named Mark 1.
Photo by Bobby Yip/ Reuters

She can wink, smile, and move her arms and legs, and responds to commands with “Hehe, thank you.” The total investment was $51,000 and about eighteen months. He plans to sell the prototype to an investor to raise money to build more.

A lot of guys will spend more than $51,000 on a car just to impress the opposite sex. Now it’s possible to create a woman that’s programmed to find you funny and interesting, as opposed to one who’s just lowered her expectations on what is funny and what is interesting.

In "Ex Machina," this android has a machine's strength and woman's feminine
wiles. Didn't end well for the guys.
Image courtesy Universal

Not to sound like a prudish Luddite, but this could be a more dangerous threat to our way of life than if robots took our jobs or decided to go full Terminator. This Mecha-Scarlett looks more realistic than the Austin Powers fembots, and those were real human!

Forget Skynet. This could be the end of the human race, as this educational video from “Futurama” explains:

"I figured I should just do it when the timing is right and realize my dream,” Ma told Reuters. “If I realize my dream, I will have no regrets in life."

So he is saying his dream was to create a beautiful woman. And the amount of care he put into the details hints that this was more than just a business venture, but also possibly a “passion project.”

As a snarky journalist, it’s hard not to find this a tad on the creepy side of the uncanny valley. But there are a lot creepier things people do to real people.
Robot ethicists have actually discussed whether childlike robots could help treat pedophiles.

This is what Ronald Arkin, mobile robot lab director at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said in a Forbes interview:

"There are no presumptions that this will assuredly yield positive results - I only believe it is worth investigating in a controlled way to possibly provide better protection to society from recidivism in sex offenders. If we can save some children, I think it's a worthwhile project."

Apologies for veering a hot Scarlett Johansson robot story into uncomfortable territory, but that’s what happens with technology. It’s unpredictable: sometimes awesome, sometimes terrifying. That’s what makes it so fascinating, and also why we should never build a real “Jurassic Park.”

The case for building more Robo-Johanssons, while also potentially dire to the human race, is less clear cut.

What do you think about robo-dopplegangers? Tell us your stance, and who you’d 3D-print, in the comment section below!