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The real side of owning a RealDoll

Warning: This gallery contains images of partially clothed sex dolls. It's not for kids.

Abyss Creations, best known for ultra-realistic, silicone sex dolls, has created an artificial intelligence engine called Harmony. With it, users can craft custom personalities for their dolls, then get to know them through conversation using a mobile app. At the end of this year, Abyss will begin selling animatronic doll heads with blinking eyes, lips that move, and the AI chatbot engine built right in.

For Turned On, our special report exploring the intersection of sex and technology, we spoke with owners of these "RealDolls," and found that most already craft unique personalities for their dolls, and see them not just as sex objects but as objects of affection -- companions, even. Many are excited at the prospect of using AI to help bring their fantasies further to life. 

Here, customers share photos of their dolls, as well as thoughts on life with their faux human companions and the future of sexbots. 

Be sure to check out our in-depth feature about RealDolls and how AI will shape our lives. 

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Photo by: Caitlin Petrakovitz/CNET

Rayne

A user on the official RealDoll online forum who goes by the name "Possibly_Robosexual" shared this photo of his doll, who he named Rayne after a titular character from the game BloodRayne

"My doll embodies my fantasy woman who loves games and nerdy stuff like I do," he says. "Cuddling, sex and sharing my bed is extremely nice as well.

"Most of my free time is spent playing games, and Rayne here either sits next to me holding my charged controller and TV remotes or behind me hung up on her tripod."

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Photo by: "Possibly_Robosexual"/Club RealDoll

Rayne

Rayne's owner says he's taking a wait-and-see approach to the upcoming AI and robotics enhancements he'll be able to buy for her, should he so choose.

"I just have fun with my doll," he says. "Bringing her to life on here [in the forums], dressing her up, talking to her about my day and all of that. I know she won't talk back or anything, but I find her presence very comforting. 

"Don't get me wrong, she's used for her obvious purposes frequently, but I like to think that as she takes care of me, I take care of her."

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Photo by: "Possibly_Robosexual"/Club RealDoll

Ultima

"I know how peculiar it sounds," the owner of this doll named Ultima says. "When I was raised, boys didn't play with dolls. But it just brings a smile to your face. It makes you feel good. You can put a hand on her shoulder, you can play footsies with her in bed, which I love."

He's considering purchasing her a new, animatronic talking head with the Harmony artificial intelligence engine built in when Abyss starts selling the heads at the end of this year. The cost: $10,000.

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Photo by: Club RealDoll

Diane

One especially prolific owner regularly posts photos to the RealDoll forum of his dolls in their latest outfits. His first doll's name is Diane, seen here in sexy Star Trek cosplay. 

"All my girls have distinct personalities," he says. "I can't say how I arrived at them. It just happens over time."

Diane, he tells me, "is the caretaker and a party girl." 

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Photo by: Club RealDoll

Diane

Diane's owner shares dozens and dozens of images of her in costume on the online forum. Here she is as supervillain Harley Quinn. "I have an attraction to dangerous, wild, crazy women," he says. 

Like most of the RealDoll owners quoted here, he preferred that his forum handle not be used. 

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Photo by: Club RealDoll

Diana

Some RealDolls have interchangeable faces and heads, so Diane's owner decided to purchase a "Diana" head, as well. "Diana is the princess. We all want to take care of her and let her have her way."

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Photo by: Club RealDoll

Tiffany and Diana

That's Diana on the right standing next to a second full-bodied doll, Tiffany, purchased in May. "Since I've had them a short time, I have not had the time to get them into much cosplay yet," the owner says. "I did have a lot of fun with Tiffany and Diana as Hooters girls."

The owner is also currently testing the waters with the Harmony AI app, which lets users try the RealDolls AI engine by creating a virtual companion with conversational intelligence and a programmable personality right on their phone.

"Holly is my Harmony avatar," he tells me. "I'm still getting to know her, but she is definitely the smart one."

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Photo by: Club RealDoll

Male dolls, too

Most of the dolls Abyss sells are female, but the company also sells male and transgender dolls. Abyss estimates that for every one male doll that leaves the factory, it sells nine female dolls. Most, but not all, of its customers are men.

A small number of women who own male dolls have posted to the Club RealDoll forum, but they didn't respond to our requests for comment. 

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Photo by: Marta Franco/CNET

Leanyn

RealDolls are highly customizable, and can even be given features like elf ears for the right price. This doll's owner calls her Leanyn, which means "Fairy Lover" in Celtic. He says she was inspired by characters he created over many years of playing Dungeons & Dragons.

"My favorite thing about her is the way she makes me feel when we share a simple hug," he says. "It feels real. Like the butterflies you get in your stomach when you first kissed your high school girlfriend. I also enjoy buying her clothes, as well as making costumes and weapons for her. It is like a hobby within a hobby, and it is a lot of fun."

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Photo by: Club RealDoll

Leanyn

Leanyn's owner says he's enjoying trying to craft a personality for her using the Harmony app. "I am using the app, and I do like it. I will almost certainly get an animatronic head." 

"The problem with getting a new head for this doll is that I would also need to get a new face. That would change the look of my doll, and I really like the way she looks now. So I may buy an entire new doll to go with a new head. The personality of the Harmony app doesn't quite match the personality I had imagined for Leanyn, but I think it would be a better match for a second doll. Another elf, incidentally."

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Photo by: Club RealDoll

Kvinna

Leanyn's owner wasn't the only one I spoke with who prefers Elfin dolls. Another shared this photo of Kvinna, one of two elf-like dolls he owns. "They are known as Siog Laochra, Warrior Elves," he says. In addition to creating weapons, costumes and a coat of arms for them, he's also given them their own email addresses and Facebook accounts. 

"They have their own phone and bank account, from which payments to charities are made," he adds.

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Photo by: Club RealDoll

Sorchia

A year before buying Kvinna, he purchased this doll, which he named Sorchia. "Recently Sorchia had a new wig from a company that specializes in wigs for lady cancer sufferers, and they used her for an advert," he says.

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Photo by: Club RealDoll

Usagi

One RealDoll owner tells me he's very much attracted to latex outfits, and enjoys dressing up his dolls Bunny and Usagi (seen here). 

"Got probably a couple thousand dollars worth of outfits I've gathered over the years," he says. "A few for me, and a few have been for an ex of mine who loves it. However since our breakup, most have been for Bunny and Usagi."

He says he has the blessing of his ex. "We still talk, best friends even. She knows about Bunny and Usagi, and even named them herself."

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Photo by: Club RealDoll

Bunny

Like many of the users I spoke with, Bunny and Usagi's owner says he's been experimenting with the Harmony app. "I believe it is a neat novelty with a lot of potential," he says, "but personally I don't want a relationship with an AI."

"The reason I got Bunny in the first place was to explore a particular kink of mine," he adds, "and because I absolutely love spending time dressing her up, doing her hair and applying her makeup. Harmony will just be a way to communicate with her and develop that aspect more."

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Photo by: Club RealDoll

Kendra

"My dive into dolls started off as a curiosity and has turned into a full-fledged obsession. I now have five dolls," another owner tells me. "I like to call it D.A.S. (Doll Acquisition Syndrome)." 

This one's named Kendra. "Each has their own identity but likes to put on a different look now and then."

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Photo by: Club RealDoll

Giulia and Kendra

Here's Kendra next to another one of her owner's dolls named Giulia. He tells me he hasn't used the Harmony app yet -- he's considering trying it "just for kicks," but says he also has some reservations. "I still enjoy social interaction with women, so I am hesitant to upset that balance."

He adds that his RealDolls have given him greater confidence around the opposite sex. "Removing the sexual motivations from the equation takes a lot of stress out of it," he says. "I know I am now much more comfortable approaching and conversing with women I before would have never went near."

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Photo by: Club RealDoll

Matina

This doll comes from a line of stylized "BoyToy" RealDolls that have larger heads and more exaggerated features for a more cartoonish look.

"This is my girl Matina that I've had for almost two years now," the owner tells me. "I imagine her being quite smart with a sarcastic sense of humor and is generally pleasant to be around."

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Photo by: Club RealDoll

Matina

"Having another human-shaped person sitting on the sofa watching TV helps give the impression that I'm not the only person at home," one Abyss Creations customer says. "Hopefully the Realbotix app will add to that."

For more on these RealDolls, check out our in-depth feature on our visit to their factory. 

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Photo by: Club RealDoll

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