"All media will touch humanity." There is already a market for realistic-looking life-sized dolls made from a durable high elastometer silicone material. In time, Levy predicts, it will be quite normal for people to buy robots as companions and lovers.
Female dolls either have fixed or removable vaginas and cost anything from ,000-,000. "I believe that loving sex robots will be a great boon to society," he says.
The project, named I-Friend, will be based on artificial intelligence software that won Levy and his team the Loebner prize for a second time in 2009.
"It will be one of the most realistic artificial chat agents when the project is finished," says Cheok.
It explores the details of internet-linked devices that transmit real physical contact. He is the only person to win the Loebner prize – an annual competition to determine which chat software is the most realistic – in two separate decades, first in 1997 and again in 2009.
It was while researching his 2003 book, , that he first became interested in the subject.
There's something missing between the experience of making a Skype call and meeting someone.
And this is where transmitting the other senses is so important." Levy, 69, and Cheok, 42, have teamed up to work on a new "chat agent" – software that can understand and respond to natural human language and speech.
By kissing the screen, the movements of a person's lips can be mirrored in the other machine and that kiss will be given to whoever has his or her mouth against a corresponding machine.
Several companies have shown an interest in the device and Cheok expects to see it hit the market in mid-2015.
It could, for example, discuss a company and its products; or a mobile app such as a virtual girlfriend or boyfriend; or a server based application with which cell phone users can interact via SMS messaging.
The same core software can be used as the basis for any desired character, simply by changing the data that defines the persona.
"That quotation hit me like a brick wall," says Levy.