London - Sex robots will be on sale in the UK within a year and could be owned by hundreds of people, an expert has predicted.
The machines will have facial expressions and the ability to move their heads and hold conversations with their owners.
While they might be popular with single people, Dr Kate Devlin, from Goldsmiths, University of London, thinks they may be bought by couples as well.
Dr Devlin gave a talk on the future of human sexuality at Edinburgh International Science Festival this week. Speaking before the event, she said: "These robots will be bought by people who have a fetish but also by people who have a relationship but their partner is not willing or able to have sex with them.
"They will also be popular with single people seeking companionship. A manufacturer has described having a sex doll as like having a pet and the companionship is a very important part of it. These robots are something to talk to, as well as a sex toy of sorts."
The robots will remember facts about their owners such as names and birthdays. Dr Devlin, a computing expert, said: "The first sex robots will be quite rudimentary. They will have an AI [artificial intelligence] 'personality' and the ability to chat with you. The race is on to produce them first and they are coming soon."
The robots are being designed to interact with people – making them different from sex dolls that are already available. Dr Devlin believes they will be purchasable online within a year, and predicts they could be bought by hundreds of people.
There are two front-runners vying to be the first firm to release a sex robot.
Synthea Amatus is manufacturing a machine called Samantha. Co-founded by Dr Sergi Santos, who studied nanotechnology in Leeds, Samantha will be "capable of enjoying sex" and will remember previous conversations – even going to sleep.
Rival firm RealDoll has a model called Harmony which will blink, talk and smile.