How does it feel to be given waves of head-tingling pleasure… by a robot?

Artist and engineer Alexander Reben wanted to find out, so he designed a simple robot, and recruited some willing volunteers.

Reben designed a simple robot, and recruited some willing volunteers...

While the work is obviously playful, there is a deeper point behind Reben’s art: he is interested in the unexpected emotional reactions that robots can trigger in us. For example, in other work he has designed cute, talking machines that seem to encourage people to give up their personal secrets. As he wrote for BBC Future in July last year: “Artificial beings will have the capacity to influence our behaviour in ways we don’t yet realise.” 

Video journalist Richard Taylor went along to film volunteers getting headgasms at an exhibition of Reben’s work at the Charlie James gallery in Los Angeles last year – see what happened in the one-minute film above.

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