A world of lonely singles finding comfort in the arms of a robot lover may be closer than expected in human hearts and minds. Only a few people have vowed romantic love for a life-size “RealDoll” sex doll or the virtual schoolgirls of the Japanese dating simulation game “Love Plus,” but scientists say that even the simplest toy robots or video games have shown how machines can manipulate human emotions. Tomorrow’s sex robots or virtual companions still won’t inspire most people to abandon their boyfriends and girlfriends — at least not until such artificial beings can look and behave human without creeping anyone out. Instead, many more people may find themselves forming platonic bonds with the next generation of smarter robot toys or virtual assistants in their cars and smartphones. “We’re not going to wake up someday and say ‘It’s OK to have a relationship with a robot,'” said Thalia Wheatley, a psychologist at Dartmouth College. “But it’s going to organically happen that we grow to depend on these things.” Relationships short of romance have already blossomed more openly. Schoolkids and nursing home residents willingly hug, pet and kiss electronic toys such as the owl-like “Furby” and cuddly “Paro” seal… Read full this story
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