Experts have called on the government to impose a ban on child-like versions of “sex robots” after warnings they could lead to rape and paedophilia.
The robots – an evolution of mannequin-style sex dolls – have gone on sale in the US, with prices ranging between £4,000 and £11,000.
They can change position, simulate sexual movement and display orgasms. Some have touch-sensitive skin and even pre-programmed emotions and personalities.
Artificial intelligence expert Professor Noel Sharkey said that the robots could be used as stag-night entertainment, to keep elderly people company or even as therapy for some.
But he also warned that, like internet pornography, they could have a negative and dangerous impact on sex in society.
Speaking in London, Professor Sharkey, from the University of Sheffield, said: “There are a bunch of companies making these (things) and beginning to ship orders in fact, and we thought policymakers and the public should really know what was going on.”
Professor Sharkey said some of the robots were designed to be “frigid” and resist advances – which he said were effectively simulating rape victims.
Other robots are completely compliant and uncomplaining and some are designed to look like a child.
Prof Sharkey said these worrying characteristics could normalise things like exploitation and rape, as well as encouraging child abuse.
“Some say it’s better to rape a robot than a person, but others think it would encourage rape,” he said.
He said he wants wanted to see the government take preemptive action to stop paedophile sex robots entering the UK, adding: “I would say there should be an import ban on those.”