Scientists in Europe are working on a project that could allow children and robots to become ‘friends’.

Robots can help children in all sorts of ways, by assisting with everything from school work and cookery to play. While at the moment, children may grow fond of robot companions, the robots themselves can’t build up a bond with the youngsters over time.

The ALIZ-E project looks to change that by developing “the theory and practice behind embodied cognitive robots capable of maintaining believable any-depth affective interactions with a young user over an extended and possibly discontinuous period of time.”

The EU-funded project is looking to increase human-robot interaction timeframes from mere minutes to a range of days. Non-verbal interaction will be a strong emphasis of the research, with robots adapting their behaviour to different user profiles.

ALIZ-E involves researchers from Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK, and while it’s unlikely to lead to robot-human marriages or anything so extreme in the near-term, if a robot can remember you, and over a number of days develop its interactions with you, it’s a step closer to creating artificially intelligent ’beings’ that really are our friends.

Do we really want that? Some may be creeped out by the idea, while others who are alone on Valentine’s Day may feel strangely comforted by it.