Meet Ricky Ma, ro­bot-builder

HK Magazine - - PAGE 3 -

Six years ago, Ricky Ma brought his child­hood dream to life when he built his first an­droid. Last year, he be­gan work on his an­droid Mark 1 (pic­tured), spend­ing $390,000 to com­plete it. The free­lance graphic and prod­uct de­signer tells Stephanie Tsui why he’s cho­sen to in­vest in a field that most peo­ple in Hong Kong don’t seem to care about—and what he thinks of sex bots.

HK Mag­a­zine: What were you like as a kid? Ricky Ma: I was al­ways crit­i­cized for my bad grades. In the lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, we’re made to learn every­thing, but how of­ten do you need the facts or skills you learnt from His­tory or Add. Math? No mat­ter how bril­liant you are at school sub­jects, ro­bots can do bet­ter. I’m glad that my mother let me fo­cus on draw­ing, though. I’ve been draw­ing since I was three, and that evolved into a ca­reer in graphic and prod­uct de­sign.

HK: Your ro­bot looks like Scar­lett Jo­hans­son. Why?

RM: I model my ro­bots af­ter peo­ple whom I think have a good char­ac­ter. Of course, they have to be beau­ti­ful, too. Women I model my ro­bots af­ter aren’t your av­er­age pretty faces. They’re not clingy or the stereo­type of weak women—they’re strong and smart.

HK: Does your wife get jeal­ous of your sexy ro­bots?

RM: Would you mind if your boyfriend modeled his sculp­ture af­ter a beau­ti­ful woman? It’s just a piece of art. Peo­ple who cre­ate an­droids are of­ten con­cerned about crit­i­cisms against the “nude” ro­botic body, but it de­pends on how you in­ter­pret it: Is it artis­tic, or is it porno­graphic? I think the fe­male body is a work of art.

HK: What crit­i­cisms do you get?

RM: Some peo­ple call me an otaku [geek]. Again, it de­pends on how you in­ter­pret the term. If an otaku sits at home all day and does noth­ing, then he’s just weird. But I have a wife and two kids, prop­erty and knowl­edge. Peo­ple are al­ways go­ing to be jeal­ous. I don’t mean to com­pare my­self to great men, but look at Al­bert Ein­stein and the Wright brothers—they were ridiculed for their ideas, but look at where they got us! Peo­ple have called me crazy, but that’s not go­ing to stop me from cre­at­ing art. Mak­ing Mark 1 was a com­pli­cated process, and I don’t have an engi­neer­ing back­ground: But a Bi­ble verse from the book of Mark en­cour­aged me to be­lieve in my­self.

HK: What do you think of sex ro­bots? RM: Women ex­pe­ri­ence a few days of in­con­ve­nience ev­ery month. Dur­ing mo­ments like these, would you rather your boyfriend cheated on you with an­other woman, or sat­is­fied his bi­o­log­i­cal needs with a sex ro­bot? This boils down to sat­is­fy­ing a ba­sic hu­man need. As a creator, I’m also open to tap­ping into the sex toy mar­ket be­cause there ap­pears to be a de­mand for them. There are guys who suck at so­cial­iz­ing with women. Men from my gen­er­a­tion would go to main­land China to drink and do busi­ness, and women from poorer parts of the coun­try would flock to them and of­fer them sex for money. Sex ro­bots could dis­cour­age such im­moral trans­ac­tions, al­though I doubt ex­ist­ing tech­nol­ogy of­fers the same level of re­lax­ation and com­fort as the real deal.

HK: Will ro­bots take over the world? RM: Ro­bots op­er­ate on pre­set pro­grams. Even their “emo­tions” are pre­set. They can’t re­place our imag­i­na­tion. Then there are con­cerns that ro­bots will take our jobs and make hu­mans re­dun­dant. But we can use ro­bots to per­form dan­ger­ous tasks and help take care of us so we can fo­cus on higher-level stuff, like in­no­va­tion and cre­ativ­ity. But that’s some­thing Hong Kong needs to work on. Why did the for­eign me­dia pick my story up be­fore the lo­cal me­dia did? For­eign coun­tries have been in­ter­ested in in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy for years, so it’s nat­u­ral that they would dis­cuss these top­ics more. In Hong Kong, our way of think­ing hasn’t re­ally pro­gressed since the man­u­fac­tur­ing era. Who here doesn’t work over­time? Peo­ple in for­eign coun­tries can ac­tu­ally spend time with their fam­i­lies, make use of their cre­ativ­ity and re­lax. If we only start think­ing about in­no­va­tion when our fi­nance and prop­erty markets fail, we won’t be able to catch up.

In­trigued? Find out more about Ricky and Mark 1 at rick­yma.hk

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