It's like something right out of science fiction: a robot girlfriend, so convincing that a real-live human could fall in love with her - I mean "it!"
There may be truth to the rumor that China's e-commerce site Taobao (often called "China's Amazon") sells everything you can think of - as long as it's not illegal. Need proof? Just ask someone who has purchased the services of a virtual girlfriend.
That's right, I said "virtual girlfriend." For roughly $3 dollars per day, the China-based site claims you can hire a robot girlfriend (or boyfriend) you can speak with by phone or chat with online. The idea is to give users the feeling they are in love.
While there are different options "services" available to order, the basics include wake-up calls, text and voice messages, phone calls and goodnight wishes.
What are the relationship limitations to a virtual girlfriend/boyfriend?
Well, initial contact comes in the form of a voice message (or call, I suppose, if you answer it) that explains, "This call is to prove that I am not a boy, nor a robot. Also, please leave out anything erotic in our conversations."
The site allows virtual girlfriend customers to leave comments. One man shared, "It was awesome - she shared my happiness and cheered me up when I was down. She has a beautiful voice, and an intelligent mind ... I so don't want to leave her."
Again, the experience is just about $3 per day. Have any of you jumped on Taobao yet?
For a relatively new e-commerce concept, the virtual girlfriend service does come with an array of choices. Some options include "doll-like girls" and "mature women," while interested lady customers can choose from boyfriend-types like "comforting man," "funny lad," and "understanding uncle." Perhaps they should fit the last option into something other than the boyfriend category?
Many comments left by customers suggest that it can be a big help if you're lonely or heartbroken - a much better solution than drinking alcohol or dialing your ex-lover in the wee hours. And if you are wondering if it is safe for your emotions and mental health, psychologist Paul Yin had this to say:
"Many men can't find enough courage to approach girls they find interesting because of the fear they will be rejected."
According to the psychologist, exchanging conversation with a virtual girlfriend can put guys like this at ease. Speaking to a real person, live, can show them that they can do it and serve to open them up for real relationships shortly thereafter.
Looks like we're still going to have to wait to see those fancy robot mates on Target shelves for the time being.