And unlike many of the big tech gimmicks you’ll hear about this week from CES, the robot pole-dancers aren’t courtesy of a massive multibillion-dollar corporation. They’re the work of an artist named Giles Walker, a 50-year-old Brit who describes himself as a scrap metal artist with a passion for building animatronic robots. One of his other projects, The Last Supper, features 13 robots interacting around a table.
Walker says he got the idea for pole-dancing robots more than seven years ago, when he noticed the rise of CCTV cameras being used as a way to surveil people in Britain for safety purposes, what he called “mechanical peeping Toms.” He was inspired by the idea of voyeurism, or watching others for pleasure, and decided to try and turn the cameras into something sexy on their own.
“There’s a challenge,” he said from a back table at the Sapphire Club, his robotic creations gyrating some 30 feet away. “I think if you’re a painter, you might want to paint a beautiful woman and make it beautiful. I’m a sculptor, and I wanted to do something that was sexy.”
His robots have become a hit, and not just at CES (this viral tweet from December certainly helped).
Walker says he’ll rent them out for corporate parties — usually “full of men in shirts,” he says — and referred to the robots as his “Christmas jingle,” which help pay the bills in a profession where money isn’t always easy to come by.
But while pole-dancing robots might have been just a silly side effect of CES a few years ago, tech’s recent grappling with the industry’s obvious issues of sexism and gender disparity now put stripper robots in a very different light. CES has already been called out for a lack of gender diversity, and some see dancing robots as yet another example of an chauvinist industry lacking self-awareness.