Pale white robot strippers with CCTV cameras for heads gyrated around poles to Justin Timberlake at a Consumer Electronics Show-related party at a Las Vegas strip club on Monday night.
The robots were flown in from London for the occasion and will be performing at the club all week in honor of CES, and Sapphire Las Vegas strip club Managing Partner Peter Feinstein said it’s all in a bid to attract more women.
“We were looking for something creative to do during CES that would sort of match what was happening in town,” he said.
Feinstein said he noticed the demographics of CES changing and that the typical hot women aren’t enough to lure a crowd to the club anymore. These days, you’ve got to offer something different.
“We’re appealing to a mass audience who looks on the internet, which we don’t normally do just as a gentlemen’s club," he said, noting that if the club was only seeking to attract men it might just promote images of beautiful women from its Instagram.
“The majority of strip clubs are not appealing to people through CES,” he said. “We’re offering a different place to go. If you’re six people from a company and there’s two women and four guys, you can still here and have some fun and see the robots and not feel like you have to be part of a strip club.”
A pun-laden invitation for the grand opening event went out last week and invited attendees to, “Come watch sparks fly as the robo-twins shake their hardware and leave everyone wondering if those double Ds are real or made in ‘Silicone’ Valley.”
In the end, the event was unsurprisingly attended by around 80 percent men. Almost all of them were in town for CES and most decided to check out the human strippers before stumbling into the robot dance party.
As the party kicked off, female club promoters in tight silver spandex robot suits jumped around, hyping up guests and passing out drinks.
“There’s no other strip clubs that are doing this,” one female promoter in glittery silver makeup beamed. “We’re bringing all this technology, I think that’s pretty cool.”
“I think it’s a fun idea of us celebrating technology and the whole CES and saying, we’re going to take it to a sexy level,” said another.
Before long, the Star Wars theme song began playing and the two robots were unveiled.
The machines grinded against the poles as guests sprayed dollar bills at their feet adorned with high-heeled stripper shoes.
When the stereo began blaring “Put your filthy hands all over me,” one man tenderly caressed a robot’s leg.
Tip buckets at the robot’s feet read “MIT bound” and “Need money for batteries.”
The robots shook and swiveled for an hour as men in the audience gawked awkwardly and a smoke machine kicked on. Eventually, several female strippers took to the stage to “compete” with the robots in the spirit of innovation.
Men seemed to like these flesh-and-blood women much better.
A common complaint was that the female robots weren’t complex or lifelike enough. It wasn’t the fact that their head was a video camera that ruined the experience, one man said; it was the way they moved.
“I’ve seen robots do much more complicated things than these ones are doing now,” said Adam, a tech worker in town for CES. “So I’m a little underwhelmed. You look at stuff on YouTube, I mean robots can operate on your brain and do really precise things now. These are a little too mechanical.”
“I just think the robots have awkward movement, no one really moves like that,” added his friend Kaiden, also in town for CES. “They need pole-dancing classes.”
“I was hoping for a bit more up and down action than just the hip and grind,” said Ross, another tech worker in town for CES.
One thing that didn’t seem to bother any of the men who attended however, was how this event might be negatively perceived from the outside.
CES has been sharply criticized in the past for not being more inclusive to women. This year, event organizers promised to “redouble” efforts to promote gender equality after failing to include one female keynote speaker for the second year in a row.
Cindy Gallop, founder and CEO of sextech startup MakeLoveNotPorn, said events such as the one held at Sapphire on Monday night contribute to the sexist environment that can feel exclusionary to females.
“These robots do not make for a professionally comfortable, business-friendly environment for women,” said Gallop, who was not at the event but viewed content from it online.
“Stripper robots together with booth babes and model waitresses are selected deliberately for sex appeal,” she said. “They send the cause of gender equality hurtling backward, because they reinforce male perception and unconscious bias of us as objects for sexual gratification, and they make it impossible for women to be perceived as professional equals, taken seriously and to do business seriously at CES.”
Some women at the event, however, disagreed.
“I think this is perfect for CES,” said Lisa, a Las Vegas resident. “Not a lot of women come to Sapphire, it’s kind of a guy thing, but if you have the robots here and CES is about that kind of stuff, then it’s going to bring more people here.”
She added that the robots might actually be empowering to women and inspire them to take up stripping themselves.
“I think that the fact that these robots aren’t human makes women think, you know, anybody can do it,” she said. “A robot can do it, why can’t someone else even if they’re not as pretty as them or as in shape as them? The robots give women hope.”
“Who wouldn’t want to see a robot strip?” added her friend Samantha, explaining that the event was all in good fun.
Giles Walker, the artist who created the robots originally as a political commentary on the surveillance state, said he didn’t have a problem with the machines being repurposed as a strip-club gimmick.
“I think it’s about bringing a bit of technology to the club,” he said.
For the club itself, the stunt is undeniably about money as much as exposure. Men at the event seemed to think it was hilarious to throw wads of cash at the animatronic women to spite the female human dancers.
“Just look,” said Eric, a Las Vegas resident, “they’re throwing money at the robots, not the real women tonight.”