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This robot torso with a face might be bolted to a customer service counter near you

Chappie was a terrible movie.

This Russian startup called Promobot, according to a press release on its site, is beginning mass production on a robot companion called Android Robo-C. It is not a sex robot, it is a torso and a head that mimics human facial expressions. It’s Johnny Cab with better hair.

Something about this is shady AF. First, the robot looks like Elijah Wood and Daniel Radcliffe dropped their DNA in a stand mixer and are now the proud fathers of Russian Tobey McGuire. Second, the company behind the robot is very scarce on details. It’s basically some weird kid going around school handing out a piece of paper that says “I make robots”, but you know he just taped a cantaloupe to a hammer drill and called it a day.

Replacing humans with robots just isn’t viable – yet

Promobot robot face and torso

Image: Promobot

A hotel in Japan tried this shit — replacing humans with robot torsos for medium tasks — and it was a massive failure and the robots got fired. And while we still seem to think that robots are going to terk er jerbs, we’re still a long way from that. Automation is one thing to assist in manufacturing (robots have been working in the automotive industry for a very long time for instance), but full-on human interaction? The technology just isn’t there yet.

CNBC wades a bit deeper in the uncanny valley pool, but the gist is that numerous companies are working on or have created life-like robot torsos to replace bank tellers and passport scanners apparently. Naturally, none of these are up to par with the current slate of sex robots, some of which breathe.

The selling point of Robo-C (which is not vitamin C for robots) is that Promobot can make it look like anyone you want. As if that doesn’t raise an eyebrow — even sex robot companies seek permission from porn performers to replicate their body parts — the statement from the chairman of the board reinforces Promobot’s need for a good staff of copyright lawyers.

“Everyone will now be able to order a robot with any appearance — for professional or personal use. Thus, we open a huge market in service, education, and entertainment. Imagine a replica of Michael Jordan selling basketball uniforms and William Shakespeare reading his own texts in a museum?” Says Aleksei Iuzhakov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Promobot. “We can build a linguistic model based on popular phrases of a particular person – the robot will communicate and answer questions by analyzing frequent expressions of the ‘original’ and using a certain context of knowledge of this person.”

Promobots in their previous non-skin form can already be found in the Moscow metro, Baltimore Airport, Dubai Mall and IKEA stores. They serve as greeters and can print photos. So, if you are a Walmart greeter, watch out, robo Elijah Wood is gonna terk er jerb.

This speaks to its limited AI system. The AI for the Robo-C, if you want to call it that, is loaded with about 100k speech modules and isn’t true artificial intelligence. Rather, it’s programmed intelligence, like an automated call system for refilling a prescription. There’s a lot that robots can’t do yet and like Jared, I’m also hoping they can never do it. While I’m not going to drag Skynet comparisons through the dirt here, beat them until they are red in the balls, it’s not a far stretch to see the abuses that can come with giving robots full artificial intelligence autonomy.

While we might see more and more humanoid robots make their way into the workplace, their brains have a long way to go and that’s a good thing. In America especially, we treat workers like shit and we treat robots worse. At least if it’s only robot torsos with the face of Tobey McGuire after eating something bitter the human/robot war will come to a swift conclusion.

What do you think? Would you want a robotic torso of someone? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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