Scope and Goal

With rapid technological developments in soft robotics and artificial intelligence, building a love machine or a sex robot does not need to be a science fiction any longer. In fact, some sex industries have claimed that their sex robots on the market are already capable of engaging in loving and sexual relationships with humans.

In light of the arrival of sex robots, the emerging role of these machines and how they should be best designed to serve our human needs have attracted a remarkable amount of attention from the general public in recent years. In contrast, responses from the academic community regarding potential sexual applications of artificial intelligence have been disproportionately slower, compared to their responses to other applications of social robotics such as healthcare and education.

According to a recent Nature editorial (entitled AI LOVE YOU, Nature 547, 138, July 2017, DOI:10.1038/547138a), only a handful of researchers have seriously investigated issues surrounding human intimate relationships with robots.  Academic research on social, legal and moral implications is scarce, and empirical work on sex-related technology is even scarcer.  Triggered by a consultation report by the Foundation of Responsible Robotics (entitled OUR SEXUAL FUTURE WITH ROBOTS, see, the Nature editorial urgently called for empirical research to be conducted to make public debates around this topic more evidence-based.

In response to this call, this workshop aims to bring together an interdisciplinary team, including psychologists, philosophers, computer scientists, ethicists and clinicians, to discuss this emerging topic of intimate relationships between humans and artificial partners. Some key topics to be discussed at the workshop include:

  • Does our current technology enable robots to take the role of intimate partners in relationships with human beings?
  • To what degree are humans prepared to accept the idea of having sex with robots?
  • What are the potential benefits and likely challenges of engaging in sexual relationships with artificial partners?
  • Can sex robots be used to deal with sex-related social and/or individual problems?
  • What are the possible ethical, moral and legal challenges of engaging in sexual relationships with artificial partners?
  • What role(s) will empirical research play in understanding human-robot intimate relationships?
  • What are the possible funding strategies for empirical research in this area?

Contributions to the workshop will be published in an edited volume with Springer Verlag. Furthermore, the workshop aims to prepare grounds for an EU-level grant application.

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