AI Love You pp 177-184 | Cite as

Intimate Relationships with Humanoid Robots: Exploring Human Sexuality in the Twenty-First Century

  • Yuefang ZhouEmail author
  • Martin H. Fischer


Sex robots are humanoid robots with artificial intelligence, designed to interact sexually with humans. They have received much attention in recent discussions about technology, human relationships and the future of human sexuality. Based on available evidence so far, this outlook aims to give tentative answers to two fundamental questions surrounding the topic of human–robot intimate relationships. First, whether intelligent humanoid robots are technologically ready to be our intimate partners. Second, whether humans are ready to accept the idea of developing intimate relationships with robots, and how far we have engaged and will engage in such activity. We highlight the importance of a scientific transdisciplinary approach to the study of human sexuality in the twenty-first century.


Sex robots Humanoid robots Human sexuality Artificial Intelligence Sexual attitudes Transdisciplinary approach 


  1. Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behaviour. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(2), 179–211. Scholar
  2. Avrunin, E., & Simmons, R. (2014). Socially-appropriate approach paths using human data. In Proceedings of the 23rd IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (pp. 1037–1042). Piscataway, NJ: IEEE. Scholar
  3. Breazeal, C. (2002). Designing sociable robots. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  4. Breazeal, C. (2003). Toward sociable robots. Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 42(3–4), 167–175. Scholar
  5. Brenot, P., & Coryn, L. (2016). The story of sex. New York: Particular Books, Penguin Random House UK.Google Scholar
  6. Cangelosi, A., & Schlesinger, M. (2015). Developmental robotics: From babies to robots. London: The MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Danaher, J., & McArthur, N. (Eds.). (2017). Robot sex: Social and ethical implications. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  8. de Graaf, M., & Allouch, S. B. (2016). Anticipating our future robot society: The evaluation of future robot applications from a user’s perspective. New York. Retrieved from
  9. Devlin, K. (2015). In defence of sex machines: Why trying to ban sex robots is wrong. In The Conversation (UK), September 17. Retrieved December 20, 2018, from
  10. Devlin, K. (2018). Turned on: Science, sex and robots. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  11. Duffy, B. R. (2003). Anthropomorphism and the social robot. Robot Autonomous Systems, 42(3–4), 170–190. Scholar
  12. Duffy, B. R. (2006). Fundamental issues in social robotics. International Review of Information Ethics, 6, 31–36.Google Scholar
  13. Fong, T., Nourbakhsh, I., & Dautenhahn, K. (2003). A survey of socially interactive robots. Robot Autonomous Systems, 42(3–4), 143–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. FRR Report. (2017). Our sexual future with robots: A foundation for responsible robotics consultation report. Retrieved September 5, 2018, from
  15. Heerink, M., Kröse, B., Evers, V., & Wielinga, B. (2009). Influence of social presence on acceptance of an assistive social robot and screen agent by elderly users. Advanced Robotics, 23(14), 1909–1923. Scholar
  16. Kewenig, V., Zhou, Y., & Fischer, M. H. (2018). Commentary: Robots as intentional agents: Using neuroscientific methods to make robots appear more social. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Levy, D. (2007). Love and sex with robots: The evolution of human-robot relationships. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  18. Li, J., Ju, W., & Reeves, B. (2017). Touching a mechanical body: Tactile contact with intimate parts of a humanoid robot is physically arousing. Journal of Human-Robot Interaction, 6(3), 118–130. Scholar
  19. McArthur, N., & Twist, M. L. C. (2017). The rise of digisexuality: Therapeutic challenges and possibilities. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 32(3–4), 334–344. Scholar
  20. Melson, G. F., Kahn, P. H., Beck, A. M., & Friedman, B. (2009). Robotic pets in human lives: Implications for the human-animal bond and for human relationships with personified technologies. The Journal of Social Issues, 65(3), 545–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mumm, J., & Mutlu, B. (2011). Human-robot proxemics: Physical and psychological distancing in human-robot interaction. In Proceedings of the 6th IEEE International Conference on Human Robot interaction. Lausanne, Switzerland (pp. 331–338). Piscataway, NJ: IEEE. Scholar
  22. Nature. (2017, July 10). 547, Page 138. Editorial. Let’s talk about sex robots. Interactions between humans and robots may eventually include sex. Retrieved January 11, 2019, from
  23. Nesta FutureFest Survey. (2016). Retrieved January 11, 2019, from
  24. Reiss, I. (2006). An insider’s view of sexual science since Kinsey. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  25. Richardson, K. (2016). Campaign against sex robots. Retrieved December 19, 2018, from
  26. Robinson, H. M., MacDonald, B. A., Kerse, N., & Broadbent, E. (2013). The psychosocial effects of companion robot: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 14(9), 661–667. Scholar
  27. Royakkers, L., & van Est, R. (2015). A literature review on new robotics: Automation from love to war. International Journal of Social Robots, 7, 549–570. Scholar
  28. Ruhland, K., Peters, C. E., Andrist, S., Badler, J. B., Badler, N. I., Gleicher, M., … McDonnell, R. (2015). A review of eye gaze in virtual agents, social robotics and HCI: Behaviour generation, user interaction and perception. Computer Graphics Forum, 34(6), 299–326. Scholar
  29. Scheutz, M., & Arnold, T. (2016). Are we ready for sex robots? In Human-Robot Interaction (HRI), Proceedings of the 11th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI). Christchurch (pp. 351–358).
  30. Scheutz, M., & Arnold, T. (2017). Intimacy, bonding, and sex robots: Exploring empirical results and exploring ethical ramifications. Retrieved January 12, 2019, from
  31. Steels, L., & Hild, M. (Eds.). (2012). Language grounding in robots. New York: Springer, Sciene+Business LLC. Scholar
  32. Szczuka, J., & Krämer, N. (2017). Not only the lonely—How men explicitly and implicitly evaluate the attractiveness of sex robots in comparison to the attractiveness of women, and personal characteristics influencing this evaluation. Multimodal Technologies and Interaction, 1(1), 3. Scholar
  33. Tanaka, F., Cicourel, A., & Movellan, J. R. (2007). Socialization between toddlers and robots at an early childhood education centre. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104(46), 17954–17958. Scholar
  34. The Guardian. (2015, December 13). Sex, love and robots: is this the end of intimacy? Retrieved January 11, 2019, from
  35. Wykowska, A., Chaminade, T., & Cheng, G. (2016). Embodied artificial agents for understanding human social cognition. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society London: B. Biological Sciences, 371, 20150375. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PotsdamPotsdamGermany

Personalised recommendations