The New Old Spice Guy Is an Awkward Robot

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
July 14 2014 3:50 PM

The New Old Spice Guy Is an Awkward Robot

Old Spice might not be a company you associate with cutting edge technology, but in a new series of commercials, it seems to be pondering some of the nuances of human-robot interactions. 

The basic premise is that using Old Spice body wash and deodorant makes the robot protagonist “smell like a man from head to toes.” In one scenario at the beach the android tries to seem cool by getting in on a game of soccer. But when it goes to kick the ball, it misses, loses its balance, and falls on a woman who’s sunbathing. “I think you crushed some of my ribs,” she says. “But you smell amazing!”

Advertisement

In another spot that takes place at a nightclub, a woman comes up to the android on the dance floor and compliments its hair. The android replies with things “men” say, like, “I love rollerblading and pepperoni pizza.” Instead of being weirded out, the Old Spice smell makes the woman ask if the android wants to “get outta here.” As the android starts to reply, its face falls off, revealing its circuitry, and it starts emitting a loud electronic tone. “Is that a yes?” the woman asks, smiling.

These ads are heteronormative and reductive, but they also offer some intriguing questions about human-android interaction. Can people be attracted to or fall in love with humanoid robots? Do things like smell make it easier for humans to accept androids? Maybe Old Spice holds the key to minimizing the uncanny valley (the aesthetic gray area in which humanoid robots are unsettling to some humans because their look or movements aren't convincing enough). But if Old Spice makes you smell human, then none of us should need it.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

The Ludicrous Claims You’ll Hear at This Company’s “Egg Freezing Parties”

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM Going Private To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 9:26 AM These Lego Masterpieces Capture the Fear and Humor of the “Dark” Side
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 8:46 AM The Vintage eBay Find I Wore to My Sentencing
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 10:27 AM 3,000 French Scientists Are Marching to Demand More Research Funding
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 7:30 AM Say Hello to Our Quasi-Moon, 2014 OL339
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.