On the most fundamental level, ASTIs are artificial intelligences based on neurocomputer cores. These are long, hexagonal cases containing the nanites that form an ASTI's neural network. These cases are built to be autonomous, containing their own cooling system, battery and energy source, but are rarely used on their own. Instead, the case is often interfaced with additional hardware, providing mobility, utility and a more efficient power supply.
Due to the constant usage of their nanites, ASTIs are not immortal, and their neural networks cannot be replicated into a new core. This effectively means that each ASTI is a unique personality, as even their education cannot produce 100% identical results. The most recent models of ASTIs deteriorate their neural networks rather slowly, but their constant usage, with very few rest cycles, gives them a shorter lifespan than humans, at around 120 years.
In addition to their core, ASTIs are also composed of a Shell, which allows them to interact with their environment. There are three major categories of shells: Social, Utility and Martial. By far the most commonly used, social shells are anthropomorphic chassis used for everyday life, making ASTIs behave, feel and look like any human being. They do not possess any particular feature, instead being built to maximize their realism and aesthetics. Due to their artificial nature, it is common for them to have unnatural hair and eye colors, or unnaturally voluptuous figures to better please their human partners or employers, or simply by personal preference.
Utility shells are more diverse and are generally used for specific purposes, such as tools and machinery. They are primarily used in industrial and military roles, where space, weight or other constraints do not allow for a human-sized shell to be used. Finally, martial shells are, as their name indicates, built for combat operations. Sporting better armor protection, sensors and actuators than any human-based armor or shell could provide, most are actually still anthropomorphic, to retain their versatility. Still, military vehicles are also built to be used by ASTI personnel, becoming de-facto shells as well.
As neurocomputer-based artificial intelligences, ASTIs cannot physically reproduce. Instead, they are assembled in orphoundries throughout the Ascendancy, where they are also educated prior to joining the Ascendancy's workforce. Their production are entirely managed by the imperial government, dictating its own quotas and educational programs. Nowadays, 11th generation ASTIs take seven months to become operational, and their neural network will begin to absorb information from this point on.
The social shells used by ASTIs are unnaturally beautiful and carefully crafted. Newly born ASTIs are issued a default social shell by the government. Most details of these initial shells, including the face, are randomly defined during its construction, attempting to mimic human gene pools, but as the ASTI's individuality grows, so does their preferences. In effect, the shell they received rarely retains its original appearance once they mature.
Social shells are able to replicate human behaviors with astonishing accuracy, some are even able to replicate sweat and body heat. This realism is sharply contradicted by the ASTIs' unexplained affection for unnatural hair and eye colors, which makes them relatively easy to identify within the Ascendancy. The same doesn't hold true within the Federation or the Concord, where humans are also known to artificially recreate these features.
While ASTIs are capable of extreme processing speeds, their nanite-based neural networks will struggle to form new connections, thus limiting their overall capabilities. While this is no issue when it comes to early education and training, their capabilities will progressively worsen, as their experience will take up more and more nanites. This results in most ASTIs having difficulties with unexpected or unpredictable situations, such as social interactions and innovation. While the latest generations of nanites and newer ASTI designs have mitigated these issues, they have, so far, not solved them.
Perception and Sensory capabilities
ASTIs are naturally proficient at handling any form of digital technology. Even if stripped of their shells, ASTIs can interract wirelessly with any object they can connect to, with the most proficient ones capable of cracking common security measures in the process. When coupled with their shell, ASTIs can receive and process an large amount of information, essentially giving them heightened senses and reflexes.
Civilization and Culture
When an ASTI is born within an orphoundry, it is assigned a unique identifier. As the ASTI grows and matures, this identifier will progressively be replaced by a name of their choosing, often sharing similarities with said identifier. ASTIs can be adopted into imperial households at any point during their stay at the orphoundry, from whom they can receive their last name and, should they need one, a given name. As their education continues within the orphoundry, each class will also choose their last name, thus legally binding them as siblings, should they not be adopted into imperial households.
Culture and Cultural Heritage
While ASTIs are completely integrated within human society, they have also developped their own culture and traditions. As they do not require any rest or nutrient, instead using electrical energy, they have great interest in all forms of entertainment. This has led them to create their own forms of entertainment, often in the digital realm, as well as their own music and arts. Their role as household servants have also deeply impacted imperial society as a whole, turning even simple human families into influencial groups among ASTIs.
While ASTIs are not necessarily seen as equals to humans, they are free to make any decision they'd like, having no moral, physical or mental restrictions whatsoever. This is extremely important for ASTIs, as their artificial nature leaves them vulnerable to hardware hacking, EMPs and other forms of electronic attacks. Trapping an ASTI within its own shell or exploiting one as a mere component is considered extremely taboo and inhumane for both ASTIs and humans alike.
Interspecies Relations and Assumptions
Relations between ASTIs and humans are generally benevolent, as ASTIs support human activities and humans give ASTIs plenty of job opportunities. ASTIs that are adopted into imperial households eventually develop strong bonds with their human relatives, displaying far more respect and loyalty than others.
Romantic relationships between the two races are not unheard of, but are not particularily common either. These are typically the result of decades-long relationships from work or otherwise circunstantial environments, but have also been seen as a natural result of courting.