Funktionide hints at the future of body pillows

Designer Stefan Ulrich has come up with what could be an early prototype of a real body pillow girlfriend. He calls it Funktionide, an "emotional robot" that changes form depending on how you hold it. Combined with advanced robotics, this could yield something that is soft, cuddly, humanoid, and capable of intelligent conversation. Yes, and it breathes. You can see a slightly intimate video of a guy and his Functionide above. Funktionide by Stefan Ulrich


  1. If we’re still wearing that “carefully-groomed-unshaven-look” in the future, send me to the past!

    This is one of those videos that boingboing year 3000 will be posting in ironic hilarity, just as we laugh at 1950’s newsreels about the future. Besides, people are already falling in love with Japanese Anime pillows, so what’s the big question here? Anything people can do to avoid dealing with their own issues and insecurities will be most welcome in the future, as it has been in the past.

  2. Hey, where’s the NSFW warning?! I couldn’t believe it when the thing started blowin’ the guy (at around the 1:30 mark).

  3. Micah: That was -exactly- what I was thinking!

    And now it seems that we are only a few steps away from them.

  4. After their show was canceled, Gloop and Gleep turned to the oldest profession in order to pay the bills.

    We’ll return to “Where are they now” after these messages.

  5. Somehow I doubt this will ever be cheaper than real human flesh, blood, and “intelligent conversation.”

      1. Actually I guess I was thinking of Eliot Spitzer. All those GOP prostitution-ring scandals are hard to keep straight.

  6. Correction- Barbapapas….and I don’t think they were supposed to be sexy. (Although they were French.)

  7. And why is it always a “girlfriend” anyway. Can’t I have a oblong slug monster for a boyfriend too?

  8. I’m not sure if this comforts me in my bachelor-tude, or terrifies the shit out of me.

    Better meditate on this one over a whisky or two.

  9. Now playing – A man and his grub: A Love Story.

    Dude, that’s so sad. At least go get a dog. This just freaks me out.

  10. This is some freaky stuff. Not only because it’s a giant writhing maggot that just wants some love, but also for the philosophical and social aspects, which were weird enough when it was just a pillow, but now it can move?

    @blueelm: “cheaper than human interaction and conversation”

    I dunno, I spend a ton of money on or because of other people. Travelling to see them, buying them birthday, Christmas and other presents, paying for activities I probably wouldn’t have done if it weren’t for them (going out to a crappy club, going to see a crappy film, etc). Sometimes I think it might be easier just to get a giant affectionate maggot instead.

    1. @Fang Xianfu – seconded. what’s implied socially by the need for this sort of device is, at least primarily, sad.

      there’s some part of me that wants to acknowledge the fact that we’re primates and we’re pushing the envelopes of exploration, so there’s some real noble purpose to be served for situations like solitary space exploration and such… but that’s fringey relative to where this will most likely end up being consumed real world.

      mostly, this would end up filling the void for people who are, for one sad reason or another, alone.

  11. @Tenn: Careful, we might get a picture of a unicorn affectionately snuggling a creepy pillowbot.

  12. This is creepy on so many levels…

    If it is a “real body pillow girlfriend”, does it come with any real orifices? And, are they machine-washable? I wonder if it can be programmed to crawl into the washing machine on its own? Perhaps it could have an optional “ugh, I really need to wash” subroutine that would activate after being fondled by that guy.

  13. This is creepy and pathetic and sad. The concept is pathetic, the video is creepy (a LOT), and the very idea of someone buying this is one of the saddest I can imagine.

    Also, if it makes that kind of noise, I can’t imagine how you would sleep on it.

  14. “Sometimes I think it might be easier just to get a giant affectionate maggot instead.”

    Well I’d prolly hang out with you if you hadn’t just told me you’d rather roll around with a big pulsing worm pillow.

    Yeah people are taxing. Mostly because they all treat you like a damned worm pillow.


  15. My thoughts were that it could be used by couples who were temporarily seperated by distance (business trips, military assigments, long distance relationships)

    and to help someone sleep after a break-up or being widowed.

    1. This was my thought as well, though I went to the widowed as the suddenly alone group. I’m not sure for people on business trips, but certainly for those who suddenly are sleeping alone and not yet able/ready to find another partner, this could be a boon.

  16. How soon until they turn up in Costco?

    @brerrabbit23: “mostly, this would end up filling the void for people who are, for one sad reason or another, alone.”

    Oh, the real creepy starts when these things start to get invited for a threesome.

    Or your dog learns to use it.

  17. I’m not easily bothered, but I actually had trouble watching the whole thing. Giant, doughy, breathing slugs in bed are creepy. Is there any regular porn on?

  18. I am a (now, enforced) single male. If i ever decide i want one of these I want you to shoot me.

  19. The truth of the matter is, this pillow is featured in ‘Paranormal Activity.’ It’s really all about evil slug pillows taking over a town.

  20. Also. I think that the loudly well-socialized among you are wearing blinders.

    There are currently seven billion people on the planet. Roughly half of those live in closely-packed urban environments.

    While it’s nice for you that your neurology is wired in a way that (apparently) allows you to deal with that in particular and the large number of humans on the planet in general, the human animal evolved in much smaller social groups. A 2006 paper from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Liverpool postulates that

    Most primates live in social groups in which affiliative bonds exist between individuals. Because these bonds need to be maintained through social interactions (grooming in most primates), sociality will be limited by time constraints. It has previously been shown that the time primates invest in grooming increases with group size. However, when groups become too large, individuals will not have enough time available to service all possible social relationships and group cohesion is expected to decrease.

    There are other studies which suggest that food supply or predation affect primate group size, but there’s somthing about group size being limited by the capacity to properly attend to social interaction that resonates.

    Family members don’t physically groom each other throughout their lives as a matter of course these days, and we don’t generally spend much time getting eaten by other animals, but given our primate heritage it is not unreasonable to suggest that massive group size, for some people, conflicts with millions of years’ worth of evolution: what happens to people when their group size can’t be decreased? Neither is it entirely unreasonable to view the rising rate of diagnosed “mental disorders,” especially the newly fashionable and highly medicated anxiety and mood disorders, through the lens of an unprecedented increase in population density and resultant social stress.

    The question then becomes not one of how sad, creepy, or pathetic these “failures at socialization” are, but how best to identify the stressors which prompt their behavior, how to remediate the behavior, and how to decide whether that behavior does, in fact, require remediation.

    Real Dolls, Japanese men with pillow girlfriends, even WOW and other online social “addictions,” might all be an expression of the same phenomenon.

    Before you condemn, ask yourself just where on that spectrum you lie. Have you ever been on medication to help you deal with the overwhelming demands of modern life? I’m not even talking about antidepressants–Xanax to help you relax? Pills to help you sleep? Even the need for a drink to de-stress from your work week might be an indication of a physiology that never evolved to deal with the noise, sensory flooding, and sheer number of social interactions that are characteristic of modern life in the developed world.

  21. Why just snuggle with it, when you could buy a bag of Jelly Bellies and have yourself an adventure:

  22. uh, i don’t think removing the human from emotional intimacy is a good idea at all. people have a hard enough time with intimacy as it is; the abstraction of intimacy from human to a shapeless blob is the height of idiocy! get a dog or a cat to snuggle with.

    1. Um, why is abstraction of human intimacy wrong when it’s an object, but OK when it’s an animal?

      Crazy Cat ladies: sadder or less sad than giant cuddly inanimate maggot?

  23. Presumably this is supposed to offer something love-dolls don’t; but what? To load a truck load of batteries into it so that it sort of freakishly vibrates/moves? And this is supposed to replace human affection? I don’t buy it.

    (hint) ;)

  24. Even with the reminder of Gleep and Gloops, two of my favorite cartoon characters…I’m creeped out.

    And the guy’s perfect ‘This-is-totally-normal’ acceptance of it is just so…Invasion of the Body Snatchers!


  25. Design student with giant pillow & Photoshop ≠ “early prototype”

    This thing is a concept video that was made by someone who clearly has zero technical knowledge of how such a thing would be made.

  26. Some people have pain that’s worse in the morning, with the likely explanation that they’ve been in one posture all night. This might be good for some people with chronic back issues, as the oscillation may keep muscles/joints from seizing up. Kind of like a less invasive Continuous Passive Motion machine.

    It’s kind of an odd thing, but then again, the first human to ever keep a dog or a cat as a pet was probably regarded as a creepy freak too.

    Not sure of the new format. I read Policies for the first time, and now have an overwhelming urge to wheedle. Though I know it accomplishes nothing. Still, wheedling beckons…

  27. Get past the creep factor of an adult huggin on it for a moment…

    I can easily imagine a smaller version being helpful in mitigating SIDS. A device like this could influence / reinforce a regular breathing pattern in infants. Perhaps even just help with restlessness. Especially in intensive care confined conditions.

  28. OK, this is WAY creepy. But think about it for a minute: There are significantly more men than women in the Chinese and Indian populations.

    Other than fighting or suicide, what can they hope to get? Substitutes like this and other such things may help ease the shortage…

  29. Better ending: significant other bursts in screaming, “That’s OUR bed…and you didn’t even use a pillowcase?!”

  30. Anybody think that Funktionide was a little thick? I’m mean I like the large Funktionide just as much as the next guy but dang who the Funktionide is that Funktionide replacing? Oprah? Can I get my Funktionide shaped alittle more like Jennifer Aniston.
    Now were talking a Jeniffer Aniston edition Funktionide.

  31. This video scared me at first.
    Trying to be open minded I thought of ways to make it less horrific.

    I imagined it with eyes.

    Suddenly I don’t want to be alone in a dark house. My lights are all going on and I am going to Cute Overload to hopefully cleanse my mind.

  32. The video was really more of a slideshow, wasn’t it? I get the impression this is purely conceptual. Besides, consider how much work would have to go into such a device in order to make it capable of shape-shifting into complex 3D forms, while still being sturdy enough to tolerate a full-grown human rolling over on it.

    While I don’t feel any inclination towards porking a robot, I do think having a companion of some kind would be nice. We don’t all live in situations that allow us to have pets, after all. In my line of work, for instance, I travel a lot and am therefore isolated a lot. Coming home will always be alright, but it isn’t all that great, really, because I don’t participate in life with my friends and family as much anymore. I hate my job, but I can’t leave it right now, either. You can’t just drop your life and wander away like an Alzheimer’s patient. A small, portable robotic companion to chat with would be a wonderful thing to help fill those long days in isolation.

    Imagine truck drivers with these things hanging out on the dashboards, or imagine people with acute depression being slowly guided around the dark side of the moon by their robotic companions. There most certainly is a place for such an invention, but I don’t think such a thing will manifest in the form of a foam-covered MAKRO bot.

  33. I agree with previous poster suggesting a pet. Just get a Cat. He not only will breath, he will also love you unconditionally.

  34. it’s not only a slide show, i’m surprised to see that nobody in the comments caught that it’s entirely faked- the “breathing” is done by distorting the image. you can even see the edge of the sleepyguy’s body being distorted as the robot image is expanded.

    when they do become real, however, i’ll take 5, and have a larvae party!

  35. This is a startlingly close representation of a kind of robot I described in the early 90s called a ‘cybershmoo’ and which was briefly mentioned in Mark Dery’s book Escape Velocity. At the time there was a brief craze in the techno-enthusiast community concerning the extremely lulz-worthy subject computer scientist Ted Nelson jokingly dubbed ‘teledildonics’; telorobotic sex devices. A new technology emerging at the time was electro-reactive phase-change fluids which were being explored for applications like electrically driven car transmissions. Building on this with this running joke of a subject in various forum discussions, I envisioned this technology being combined with spandex-covered latex envelopes or balloons that contained an internal web of conductive elastomeric which could selectively control the solidity of phase-change fluid within it. By creating its own peristaltic pumps within its mass on demand, a robot based on this could use internal pressure to push its form into different complex shapes. It could also sense the contours and force of contact with it.

    Thus I imagined a number of teledildonic devices based on this technology starting with a simple handheld robot called the cybershmoo that could sense the shape and contours of whatever part of the body you placed it against and transmit that by modem (this was still just a bit pre-Internet) to a companion device that replicated those contours in its own shape and then would transmit-back any tactile contact with it. I imagined this evolving to many sizes with increasing volumetric resolution.

    A more advanced form of this technology would be a robot called the amoebot that had some practical applications beyond sex. This robot could actively move on its own, assume different shapes for various tasks, traverse extremely difficult spaces, and sense its environment by volumetrically mapping the surfaces it was in contact with.

    But the piece de resistance was the cyber-sex bed system, inspired by a strange late 70s SciFi novel -a library book I was never able to find again and whose name I can never remember…- involving a man’s sexual relationship with his artificially intelligent bed. (which happily ends with him finding a real live girl and his bed hooking up with his android Sigmund Freud therapist; the four of them together on a beach blissfully ‘walking’ off into the sunset -like I said, this was a 70s novel…) Here the cybershmoo is expanded to the size of a large bed and given sufficient volumetric resolution that it would be able to replicate the detailed contours of an entire semi-prone human body, mapped out by a companion bed elsewhere in the world. Together, the paired beds would replicate the form and motion of each other’s occupants while transmitting their mutual physical contact. The ultimate haptic interface device. Alternatively, the beds could operate solo, a suitable fantasy partner provided by computer simulation. This simulation would be enhanced by thermal elements and a 3D sound system also integrated into the bed.

    Teledildonics was such good clean fun. I wonder why we don’t hear much about it anymore.

  36. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned this, the entire video is faked movement. Watch the creature “breathing”, and observe the edges of mister sleepy: he’s being distorted by it because of 2D edge manipulation. He hasn’t ‘come up with’ anything, other than the idea, it certainly doesn’t breathe.

  37. On first view, I believe this would an excellent companion for nursing home patients/invalids or those that experience lonliness at old age. It needs to be to easy launder and affordable for fixed income. A very nice comapanion to pet therapy.

Comments are closed.