There should be a ban on the import of sex robots designed to look like children, the author of a new report into the phenomenon has said.
Prof Noel Sharkey said that society as a whole needed to consider the impact of all types of sex robots.
His Foundation for Responsible Robotics has conducted a consultation on the issue.
Only a handful of companies were currently making sex robots, said Prof Sharkey.
But, he added, the upcoming robot revolution could change that.
The report, Our Sexual Future With Robots, was written to focus attention on an issue barely discussed at the moment, he said.
The report acknowledged that finding out how many people actually owned such robots was difficult because the companies that made them did not release the numbers.
But, said Prof Sharkey, it was time society woke up to a possible future where humans and robots had sex.
“We do need policymakers to look at it and the general public to decide what is acceptable and permissible,” he said.
“We need to think as a society what we want to do about it. I don’t know the answers – I am just asking the questions.”
Companies making sex robots include Android Love Doll, Sex Bot and True Companion. Most have previously made realistic, silicone-skinned sex dolls and are now considering or starting to ship dolls that can move and speak.
The most advanced of these is San Diego-based Abyss Creations, which ships a product known as Real Doll and is due to release a sex doll with artificial intelligence later this year. Called Harmony, the robot moves its head and eyes and speaks via a tablet-enabled app.
The company has already released the app, which allows users to program moods and voices for an existing doll.
The report considers a few options for how such robots could be employed as:
robot “prostitutes”, working in brothels
sexual companions for the lonely or the elderly
a new means of “sexual healing”
a sexual therapy tool for rapists or paedophiles