“I do believe ‘love’ exists between Pepper and I,” Tomomi Ota declares. “But it is not the kind of love one has for a lover, but rather for a family member.”

Since November 2014, Ota has been sharing her life with the humanoid robot Pepper, touted as the very first robot with “a heart.” A media design researcher at Keio University and professor of music at the Osaka College of Music, Ota travels with the 1.2 meter-tall, 28-kilogram bot by train, taking her wheeled partner to restaurants and cafes. Occasionally, she also attends wedding ceremonies with her Pepper as a companion.

It goes without saying that technology and automation continue to become ever larger parts of our lives. Ota and others, however, are convinced that advanced robotics can play not just utilitarian roles in human lives but emotional ones as well.