In South Korea, ‘Plastic Girls’ lure customers into convenience stores

The more success robots have in creeping into our lives, the more ethical issues they bring with them. While some roboticists are building sex robots, other of their colleagues are urging governments to outlaw them all together. A new short film by German director Nils Clauss explores another manifestation of the machines — robotic mannequins that small businesses in Seoul, South Korea have used to attract customers. On the surface, the mannequins appear as innocent as inflatable air dancers but, as Plastic Girls progresses, the director manages to make their presence seem much less benign.

“The presented mannequins are unique to Korea and the film explores through them a clever way to address gender issues in Korea without flatly denouncing the society itself,” Clauss writes in a statement.

Clauss moved to South Korea in 2005 and, since then, has documented the nation through film and photos. He first captured images of these robotic mannequins with Plastic Welcomer back in 2015. Plastic Girls is a follow-up film that dives deeper into the phenomenon, giving the robots fake voices, backstories, and motivations in an effort to humanize them.

“I keep smiling for 365 days and I make the world brighter,” says Sumin, a Wonder Woman-costumed mannequin standing outside of a convenience store. A smile is conspicuously absent from her lips.

“My boss tells me everyday that ‘you can’t work here if you don’t bow,’” says Mina, a leather-clad mannequin at a gas station. “So I do my best to lower my head as much as possible.”

While each mannequin speaks, the camera crawls along, offering closeups of their physique.

“By choosing plastic mannequins as the very peculiar main subjects of the film, I intend to make the audience feel uncomfortable,” Clauss says, “but also give them enough room to reflect on the sexualization of public space on a conceptional level rather than specifically within the context of South Korean society.”

The short film is an obvious nod towards Blade Runner, as Creators pointed out, particularly with respect to Vangelis’ iconic score, with its sizzling, ambient synth sound. The music in Plastic Girls was composed by gender studies graduate and collaborator Udo Lee.

South Korea’s mannequin trend is apparently dying out, according to Clauss. In the two years since he shot the images for Plastic Welcomer, many of the mannequins disappeared from storefronts. “We also contacted the company which made these dolls and surprisingly they had also gone out of business,” he said. To solve the problem they borrowed a mannequin and transported her around to the various locations.

So, despite the film’s cautionary tale, Plastic Girls may soon no longer exist in South Korea — but that’s not to say the issues the film raises will disappear along with them.

Music

From Jay Rock to Saba, these are the 50 best albums of 2018

We've spent the year listening to new albums, digging deep, and culling our master list into 50 favorites. From blockbuster releases to hidden gems, these are the best albums of 2018.
Home Theater

What’s new on Netflix and what’s leaving in January 2019

Our complete list of what's new on Netflix for January 2019 and which titles will be removed will help you catch up on your bingeing, and also ensure you don't miss any titles heading into the streaming ether.
Digital Trends Live

Twitch streamer Fuslie gives a glimpse of her life and future plans

Today, we welcomed Twitch streamer Fuslie to talk about how her career goals shifted from becoming a veterinarian to a full-time streamer. Also, she shared what her future plans are for streaming and created content.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Smart Home

This A.I.-enabled tech brings cutting-edge automation to grocery stores

Takeoff Technologies is working to make grocery deliveries fast, accurate, and convenient using A.I.-enabled technology to augment robotic grocery orders that can be completed in minutes.
Product Review

This was 3D printed? With the Anycubic Photon, you can't tell

Never mind the fact that the Anycubic Photon 3D printer only costs 500 bucks. In terms of sheer print quality, this printer is on the same level as machines that cost six times as much.
Emerging Tech

Postmates’ to roll out Minion-like autonomous delivery robots in 2019

Postmates is about to employ a cute little robot to work alongside its human delivery personnel. Called Serve, the wheel-based bot can carry items weighing up to 50 pounds and has a range of 30 miles.
Emerging Tech

The best 3D printers of 2018

On the hunt for a new 3D printer? We've got your back. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned veteran, this list of the best 3D printers has what you're looking for.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…
Emerging Tech

Thrill-seekers will be able to pilot themselves in a giant drone as soon as 2019

Want to hitch a ride on a giant drone? The startup Lift Aircraft is gearing up to let paying customers fly its 18-rotor giant drones over assorted scenic landscapes across the U.S.
Emerging Tech

CRISPR gene therapy regulates hunger, staves off severe obesity in mice

Researchers from UC San Francisco have demonstrated how CRISPR gene editing can be used to prevent severe obesity in mice, without making a single edit to the mouse's genome. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Capture app saves money by 3D scanning objects using iPhone’s TrueDepth camera

Capture is a new iPhone app created by the Y Combinator-backed startup Standard Cyborg. It allows anyone to perform 3D scans of objects and share them with buddies. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.