The BIG idea
Companion ... the Kissinger robot.
If a man can love a car beyond the point of reason, how much more can he love a robot? A car's responses, after all, are pretty limited: going faster or slower, turning corners, heating or cooling, wiping windows or not.
Robots, on the other hand, can do just about anything, from changing bedpans to flying aeroplanes, but also coo, cuddle and, yes, kiss.
Pleo the pet dino-robot responds to stroking and patting with the evident languid pleasure of a lazy cat. It won't be long before robots like him are in routine use as pets and companions to the aged, sick, lonely, or none of the above.
According to Hooman Samani and his Lovotics team at the National University of Singapore, loving robots are the next logical step after industrial, service and social ones. Their Kissenger robot lets you kiss across oceans: you each pash a pair of artificial lips on a device and your lip movements are transferred to each other through the devices. Singles can just kiss the robot and it will kiss back.
Programming for love takes account of things such as proximity, repeated exposure, desirability and attachment. An ''artificial endocrine system'' mimics the effects of the hormones that combine to make you crazy in love.
Why is it a relief to read that ''developing an affection system similar to that of the human presents considerable technological challenges''? An irrational attachment to the ancient mysteries of love, perhaps.