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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Gynoid (from Greek γυνη, gynē - woman) is a term used to describe a robot designed to look like a human female, as compared to an android modeled after a male. The term is not common, however, with android often being used to refer to both "sexes" of robot. The portmanteaus fembot (female robot) and feminoid (female android) have also been used; the latter sparingly.


Early concepts

From 600 BC onward legends of talking bronze and clay statues coming to life have been a regular occurrence in the works of classical authors such as: Homer, Plato, Pindar, Tacitus, and Pliny. In Book 18 of the Iliad, Hephaestus the god of all mechanical arts, was assisted by two moving female statues made from gold - "living young damsels, filled with minds and wisdoms". Another legend has Hephaestus being commanded by Zeus to create the first woman, Pandora, out of clay. The myth of Pygmalion, king of Cyprus, tells of a lonely man who sculpted his ideal woman from ivory, Galatea, and then promptly fell in love with her after the goddess Aphrodite brings her to life. Variations on this recurrent theme of loving an artificial creation appear in E.T.A. Hoffmann's Gothic short story Der Sandmann (1817) in which the love object is the automaton Olympia, in Léo Delibes' ballet Coppélia (1870) where it is the eponymous dancing doll, and in countless recent science fiction films and novels.

Since the Renaissance, inventors began considering machines for more realistic yet aesthetic purposes. In 1540, Italian inventor Gianello Torriano of Cremona made automata for the amusement of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, including a life-sized girl plucking a lute. The girl could walk in straight lines or circles and tilt her head. It still exists and now resides in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

During the 1640s, the French philosopher René Descartes is reputed to have traveled with an artificial female companion called Francine, named after his daughter. Austrian Friedrich von Knauss developed a "writing doll" in 1760 capable of writing up to 107 words through dictation. By 1773, the Jaquet-Droz brothers in France had developed a series of life-like mechanical puppets which included a sixteen year old female musician. The musician played a piano with fingers on the appropriate keys and was designed to simulate breathing as well as turn her head sideways and bow at the end of each performance. Mechanist Les Maillardet is credited in inspiring the invention of "The Philadelphia Doll" (1812) which was capable of writing in English and French and drew landscapes. In 1823, Johann Nepomuk Maelzel had manufactured a doll that could state "Ma-ma" and "Pa-pa". By 1891, Thomas Edison developed this work further by patenting his Talking Doll, utilising a wax cylinder that recited "Mary Had a Little Lamb", based on Maelzel's earlier idea. Initially to advertise his phonograph, more than 500 were produced.

Modern developments

The industrial revolution and in particular since World War II, the development of cybernetics and the concept of artificial intelligence led to more complex ideas of robots and androids. Whereas robots in the past have performed routine and mundane tasks, a fully independent gynoid has yet to be developed. Prototype gynoids are the Actroids, including Repliee R1 (resembling a little girl) and its successors Repliee Q1 and Repliee Q2.

Role of gynoids in science fiction

Science fiction storytellers have widely used humanoid robots, sometimes as part of the look and feel of their fictional worlds, but often so as invite the audience to react to the robot character as if it were human. Stories using androids can explore issues such as what it means to be human. One of the earliest appearances of such a character in science fiction movies was in the 1927 film Metropolis, in which a female android encourages the working lower class to rebel against the ruling upper class in the highly mechanized society of 2026.

At what point do androids become so human-like that they deserve the rights that society grants to humans? Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (which was adapted into the film Blade Runner) deals with a world in which androids are so realistic that only special equipment can distinguish them from humans. However, androids are treated as inferior to humans. The action revolves around a bounty hunter employed to track down escaped androids who are masquerading as humans. It should be noted that in the film, the androids are instead replicants, bioengineered servants that are physically indistinguishable from humans but can possess superhuman qualities.

Stories that specifically need gynoids (as opposed to genderless humanoid robots) often invite the audience to consider issues of gender relations and gender roles. Many fictional gynoids are made to resemble attractive young women, bringing issues of romance and sexual relations into play. For example, should societies approve or tolerate gynoids being owned by male humans as sex toys or sex slaves (and by extension, how does this reflect on the treatment of human females by their mates)? Stories such as the The Stepford Wives, Weird Science, have dealt with these issues. See also Sex in science fiction.

Since the 1980s female androids have also become a staple of Japanese anime and manga, where their human appearance but inhuman nature is commonly used as a plot element. Primarily, anime gynoids fall into two categories. Emotionally innocent gynoids whom live in a world where part of the population treats them as humans and the other half treats them as tools, for example Chii from Chobits and Sally #1 from Hinadori girl, and those who appear human and placid, and live in a world where gynoids are common, but who reveal their mechanical nature in a shocking or destructive way, such as rogue Boomer.


The term Fembot (sometimes spelled Femmebot) is used as an alternative name for a gynoid who is designed to look like a woman. The term has been used in several fictional productions.

The original fembots

In The Bionic Woman, the Fembots were a line of powerful life-like androids that Jamie Sommers fought in two multi-part episodes of the series: "Kill Oscar" (with help from Steve Austin) and "Fembots in Las Vegas". Despite the feminine prefix, there were also male versions, including some designed to impersonate particular individuals for the purpose of infiltration. While not truly artificially intelligent, the fembots still had extremely sophisticated programming that allowed them to pass for human in most situations. Often however, their "facemasks" would be dislodged to reveal the machine's underlying facial mechanism and circuitry, creating the classic inhuman image of the menace.

In the show, the fembots' primary weakness was that their default operational setting produced a unique high pitched sound that only Jaime (with her bionic ear) could hear. This allowed her to detect their presence. However, once the fembot's operator was aware of this, the operational 'frequency' of the fembot could be changed and the sound thus eliminated. Fembots on important missions were often remotely controlled by an operator back at the base who was able to see and hear everything through the machine.

Fembots could also be discovered because of their heavier weight - more than twice that of a similar-sized human. Steve Austin once discovered that Oscar Goldman had been replaced by a "male fembot" by tossing a pencil on the carpet between them. When the Goldman fembot unwittingly stepped on the pencil, it didn't just snap but was instead crushed into tiny pieces.

When the bionic heroes faced the machines in battle, their operator at the base could increase their strength and make them extremely formidable foes.

Other Fembots

In a parody of the fembots from the Bionic Woman. Attractive fembots in fuzzy see-through night-gowns were used as a lure for the fictional agent Austin Powers in the movie Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery. Austin couldn't help but be seduced by the fembots. However, he was able to snap out of it and used his mojo in a striptease that exceded their limits and they were caused to self-destruct.

Futurama also used the word fembot (male robots being "manbots"; in the show, manbots and fembots can reproduce themselves through sex. Futurama also introduced the term "femputer" (a portmanteau of female and computer) to refer to a computer with a feminine personality. The term "fembot" was also used in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and fans of the Transformers line of toys and related fiction occasionally use the term to refer to Female Transformers. It was used once in the Transformers Beast Wars cartoon series.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Gynoid" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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