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Emotional attachment to machines

New ways of relationship-building in Japan

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Published on Wednesday, October 16, 2019


Currently, technologies that foster emotional connections between humans and digital beings are perceived as a threat by many. Because emotional devices are considered to be make-believe systems based on ‘simulation’ (which is often confused with lying, deceit or fraud), emotional technologies could potentially be suspected of affecting human sexual identity or disrupting social bonds. This Symposium will examine the ways in which humans form intimate relationships with ‘emotionally-intelligent entities’ (robots, digital characters, downloadable boyfriend…) and what purposes these relationships to machines serve for them. 



Recently, Japanese society has been witnessing a rise in intimate attachment to information and communication systems such as emotional robots, holographic spouses, downloadable boyfriends and augmented reality partners. Some users are now tackling the social stigma associated with artificial worlds, up to the point where they openly ‘marry’ their favorite ‘2D character’ by organizing pretend weddings or filling out legally-invalid marriage licenses. Also, the game industry has started to address the demand for ‘delusional love’ (mōsō ren’ai) and – although it is still a niche market – they are increasingly targeting a more mainstream audience. With the proliferation of sophisticated electronic devices, this rising phenomenon of emotional attachment to artificial entities is likely to further expand in Japan and globally. How could such ways of bonding be understood and explained? During the course of an international and interdisciplinary conference, the discussion will involve the ways in which humans form intimate relationships with ‘emotionally-intelligent entities’ and what purposes these relationships to machines serve for them. 


Friday Oct 25, 2019 | 9:30–18:30 

  • 9:45–10:00 | Elena GIANNOULIS & EMTECH Team
: Introduction
10:00–11:15 | Keynote I – Paul DUMOUCHEL (Ritsumeikan University, Japan): Desiring Machines
  • 11:15–12:00 | Kōhei OGAWA (Osaka University, Japan): Can Androids be a Social Entity for Us?

14:00–14:45 | Tatsuya NOMURA (Ryukoku University, Japan): Rapport with Robots and a Possibility of Its Danger
  • 14:45–15:30 | Agnès GIARD (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany): Marrying a Digital Creature, Fake Weddings in 2.5D Space 
  • 16:00–16:45 | Hidenobu SUMIOKA (Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratories; Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International, Japan)
: Mediated Social Touch to Build Human Intimate Relationship 
16:45–17:30 | Nobuhiro TAKAHASHI (The University of Electro-Communications; 
Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan): Expression, Transmission, and Archiving of Humanity by Using “Interactive Humanoid Mediums”
  • 17:30–18:30 | Sense-Roid Workshop (All participants are invited to test the Sense-Roid)

Saturday  Oct 26, 2019 | 10:15–17:30 

  • 10:30–11:30 | Keynote II – Marc STEINBERG (Concordia University, Canada): Producing Intimacy: Characters and/as Mobile Media
  • 11:30–12:15 | Giulia DE TOGNI (University of Edinburgh, UK): Feeling the Heart in the Robot: Will ‘Robotic Hearts’ replace Human Hearts in AI-driven Health and Social Care Systems?
14:00–14:45 | Anne ARONSSON (University of Zurich, Switzerland): Social Robots in Elderly Care: The Turn toward Emotional Machines in Contemporary Japan
  • 14:45–15:30 | Véronique AUBERGÉ (Laboratoire d’Informatique de Grenoble, France): 
“Socio-Affective Glue Robots" and Elderly Isolated People
  • 16:00–16:45 | Erez GOLANI SOLOMON (Waseda University, Japan; Bezalel Academy of Arts & Design, Israel)
: A Temple is a Machine for the Dead, and for the Living
  • 16:45–17:30 | Panel Discussion. Chair: Agnès Giard / Panelists: Paul Dumouchel, Kōhei Ogawa, Carman Ng (University of Bremen), 
Marc Steinberg, Hidenobu Sumioka 

Organized by

  • Elena Giannoulis 
  • Agnès Giard
  • Berthold Frommann


Université Libre de Berlin - Freie Universität Berlin: Henry Ford Building, Lecture Hall B 

Free entrance

Working languages : English 



  • Henry Ford Building, Lecture Hall B - Freie Universität Berlin, Garystr. 35, Berlin
    Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany


  • Friday, October 25, 2019
  • Saturday, October 26, 2019


  • robot, digital technology, virtual character, emotional commodity, Japan, AI


  • Agnès Giard
    courriel : aniesu [dot] giard [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Agnès Giard
    courriel : aniesu [dot] giard [at] gmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Emotional attachment to machines », Conference, symposium, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, October 16, 2019, https://doi.org/10.58079/13nj

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