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If it was possible to create a robot as caring, empathetic and engaging as a human could you fall in love with it? In the future should humans be allowed to have relationships with robots? Could robots be a cure for loneliness?

Japan, the world leaders in robot technology for decades, are currently pushing the boundaries of human-robot relationships further than anyone else. In fact, Japan’s government have laid out a robot strategy designed to help meet the needs of the aging population in which robots take on the role of carers and nurses. By the year 2020 they hope that 80% of the elderly will receive some form of assistance from a robot. However, how satisfied elderly people are with the care provided, and how willing they are to interact with robots remains to be seen.

In Japan robots are also seen as an alternative to pets and friends for humans. Recently, a robot known as LOVOT was created whose only purpose is to spread love and offer companionship. LOVOT has attracted a lot of attention, winning several international awards. The option of having robots as companions, instead of other humans, could help to solve the current loneliness epidemic as people become increasingly socially isolated. However, it could make the problem even worse if human to human relationships deteriorate as social skills are forgotten.

As robot techno? And how would we test for sentience anyway?

Fortunately we are still a long way from having the means to produce emotionally intelligent, or sentient robots. But if we could, would you want romance with them, or run from them?