Based on all the technological innovations we've made so far and current trends like smart homes and self-driving cars, the world that so many science fiction novels, films and television shows have foreshadowed is in the near-future.
While some aspects of the imagined future still won't be reality for a while, there are some advances in the field of robotics that already have people both curious and concerned.
On one hand, robotic technology is changing some lives for the better. This story of a little girl with a 3-D printed hand is a great example.
On the other hand, some people fear that robots will make things worse. This worry was recently heightened in Houston, Texas, where businessman Yuval Gavriel is gearing up to open the first sex robot brothel in the United States.
As expected, the residents are enraged and trying to put an end to his plans. However, the situation can't be easily solved because there are currently no laws against opening such an establishment.
"I can buy two or three or four of these on the Internet and in Washington, D.C., or New York, or anywhere I want, I can set them up and charge people $100 an hour to use them," John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University, told the Washington Examiner. "It might make a very funny skit on Saturday Night Live if one of these go wrong, and control mechanisms break and the thing starts pulsating more than it's supposed to," he said. "But that could create a very real physical hazard."
Gavriel, who owns the Toronto-based Kinky S Dolls, wants to offer customers a place where they would pay $60 dollars to spend 30 minutes alone with a sex doll that is equipped with A.I. technology and can move. In Houston, he will offer on-site, short-term private rentals.
Although Houston residents and the media refer to the controversial business as a "brothel," Gavriel insists that it is more of a sex doll shop where clients are allowed to test the product before spending upwards of $2,500.
"I consulted with a lawyer and the lawyer said, 'Listen, there are no rules to it, but if you are smart you don't go out and say you are operating a brothel,'" Gavriel told the Examiner. "He went through all the laws and all of the regulations and currently there are no regulations for this kind of service. The States is a bigger market, and a healthier market, and God bless Trump."
If Gavriel's plans to enter the Houston market works, he told the news outlet that he wants to open up nine more locations throughout the U.S. by 2020. In Houston, since the business doesn't meet the definition of a sexually oriented business, all Gavriel would need is a permit to open it. He already has the backing of four investors.
One of Gavriel's most vocal critics is Elijah Rising, a Houston-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to end sex trafficking. They have been circulating a petition titled "Keep Robot Brothels Out Of Houston," and it has already received nearly 7,000 signatures.
Like many others who oppose the idea, the organization says "robot brothels will ultimately harm men, their understanding of healthy sexuality, and increase the demand for the prostitution and sexual exploitation of women and children."
Although an address for Gavriel's "showroom" has not been reported, some residents may already have an idea of where the business will be located and they worry it will affect their neighborhood.
"There's kids around here and it's a family-oriented neighborhood and I live right here and to have that here is just gross," Andrea Paul told KTRK.
But in the end, there are some who believe that protests and petitions won't convince lawmakers to pass legislation because robots, including sex dolls, are going to be an inevitable part of our future. Robot sex brothels are already widespread in Europe, so it was just a matter time until they cropped up in America.
Gavriel's fellow businessman and creator of RealDoll, Matt McMullen, told CNET that he doesn't see anything wrong with the business as long as it is helping people.
"There are a lot of people out there, for one reason or another, who have difficulty forming traditional relationships with other people," McMullen said. "It's really all about giving those people some level of companionship—or the illusion of companionship."