Will you take this robot to have and to hold?

If you've been unlucky in love and have yet to find the perfect partner, things are looking up. By the mid-21st century, we'll fall in love and marry robots. So predicts an artificial intelligence researcher.

Robots are set to become so advanced that they'll be almost human-like, according to David Levy, a British artificial intelligence researcher. They'll be able to have intelligent conversations, display emotions and respond to human emotions.

Robots of tomorrow

Robots will be very much like a new race of people, Levy told PCworld.com. There will be no more mechanical, jerky movements and synthetic voices - the robots of tomorrow will be highly human-like. So much so, they'll become our aides, friends, partners and even spouses.

"Robots started out in factories making cars. There was no personal interaction," Levy said.

"Then people built mail cart robots, and then robotic dogs. Now robots are being made to care for the elderly. In the last 20 years, we've been moving toward robots that have more relationships with humans, and it will keep growing toward a more emotional relationship, a more loving one and a sexual one.

"Human/computer conversation hasn't made as much progress as you'd expect in the last 50 years. But computers are so much more powerful now and memory is so much better... so we'll see software that can have interesting, intelligent conversations. It's really essential that both sides are happy with the conversations they're having."

Interesting conversations

Levy estimates that robots will be capable of holding interesting conversations within 15 years. And in 20 or 30 years, he expects them to be able to hold sophisticated conversations. You'll be able to specify what you'd like to talk to the robots about, such as the arts, sport or travel.

"There will be different personalities and different likes and dislikes. When you buy your robot, you'll be able to select what kind of personality it will have. It'll be like ordering something on the internet. What kind of emotional makeup will it have? How it should look. The size and hair colour. The sound of its voice. Whether it's funny, emotional, conservative."

Levy explains all in his book Love and Sex with Robots, which goes on sale next month.