Cure for love: Fall for a robot to fend off heartache

New Scientist, 14 February 2014

At least the bride was definitely going to show up. In November 2009, a Japanese man stood before a congregation to marry the woman he loved, Nene Anegasaki. In doing so, he became the first man to marry a computer game character – Nene is one of three "virtual girlfriends" in the Nintendo DS game Love Plus.

The marriage might not be recognised by the state, but to the groom, who goes by his on-screen name Sal9000, the relationship is very real. In the months leading up to the wedding the couple went everywhere together, they chatted intimately, held hands and Sal fell in love. After the wedding, he took Nene on honeymoon, then home to meet his parents.

Sal says he is in love with the character rather the machine, and presumably he's not alone – over 250,000 copies of Love Plus have been sold in Japan since it launched in 2009.

Spike Jonze's latest film Her takes the idea further, depicting a future in which phone operating systems are advanced enough to substitute a real romance. So just how likely are we to fall in love with a machine?