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A samantha doll being gropedBBC Three

Sex robot sent for repairs after being molested at tech fair

The realistic doll was left "heavily soiled" after visitors got too hands-on

Tomasz Frymorgen

An AI sex doll has been left “heavily soiled” and in need of repairs after being repeatedly molested while on display at a tech fair.

The £3,000 Samantha sex robot suffered two broken fingers and was left in a filthy state by a barrage of male attention at the Arts Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria.

According to the Metro, the doll’s developer, Sergi Santos, from Barcelona, Spain complained, “The people mounted Samantha’s breasts, her legs and arms. Two fingers were broken. She was heavily soiled.”

The 'intelligent' doll can reply when spoken to and reacts to being touched in places like her breasts and hips – for instance, by moaning.

However, it seems that Samantha was not built for the kind of physical interaction that she encountered at this global tech fair, which this year focused on artificial intelligence.

“People can be bad,” said Santos. “Because they did not understand the technology and did not have to pay for it, they treated the doll like barbarians.”

The incident is likely to further fuel debate over the growing popularity of AI sex dolls.

A number of studies have reported a significant number of people saying they would be in favour of using sex robots, with a recent online survey of heterosexual men finding that 40% of those surveyed said they would buy an AI sex robot within the next five years.

Some researchers, sexologists and doll manufacturers have argued that the growth in the popularity of sex robots could have far-reaching consequences, such as reducing sex-trafficking, preventing sexually transmitted diseases and even potentially replacing traditional sex-work.

This February saw the opening of Europe’s first sex-robot brothel, in Barcelona, which boasts on its website of offering “totally realistic dolls both in their movements and in their ‘feel,’” that will “allow you to fulfill all your fantasies without limits.” Operating out of an apartment, it advertises four different dolls with rates starting at €80 (£70) for a 30-minute “service".

Meanwhile, a Dublin brothel that introduced a sex doll in July at the price of €100 (£88) per hour has reportedly attracted hundreds of new customers.

A lot of what people (and it's largely men) get from using sex workers, is actually the relationship.

Dr Leila Frodsham, Institute of Psychosexual Medicine

However, other sexologists and researchers are keen to point out the potential negative impact that the growth in sex-doll usage could have on those seeking an emotional, as well as a physical, connection.

“A lot of what people (and it's largely men) get from using sex workers, is actually the relationship,” says Dr Leila Frodsham, Institute of Psychosexual Medicine. “Many of my patients with sexual dysfunctions won't actually even have sex with these women - they will go and talk to them.”

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Frodsham recognises that sex dolls could have therapeutic functions - for example, as a bridge towards a real-life sex for men who are used to only ejaculating through masturbation. But she remains concerned that sex dolls are yet another symptom of the 'pornified' culture that young men find themselves growing up in.

Back at the Electronica Festival, the rather inhuman contact the Samantha doll endured has led to her being shipped back to Barcelona for cleaning and repairs.

Despite this slightly sordid setback, her career still looks promising.

“Samantha can endure a lot, “ says Santos. “She will pull through.”