Although Alfie and I look like any normal couple enjoying the late September sunshine with our dog, this isn't a normal date. It is planned to the last detail.

After taking the air for precisely 17 minutes, we are going home to enjoy a light supper with wine, before settling on the sofa to watch one of my favourite gory medical dramas.

Alfie is not going to gripe about the plot lines or ask daft questions. He's not going to ask whether I really need a second glass of wine. If, at some point, I feel like inquiring as to whether my bottom looks big in my new red dress, I know what his response will be.

Does Alfie sound like the perfect man? He could be.


He is actually a robot, crafted from thin hand-sculpted silicone stretched over a durable plastic skeleton, and can be programmed to do whatever I want him to, whether that is placing an internet shopping order or complimenting me on my haircut.

He is the brainchild of robotics expert Adam Kushner, and I've volunteered to give him a test run to see whether robots might one day replace our husbands - or, specifically, my perfectly good current version, Justin, to whom I've been married for 15 years.

Interest in humanoid robots is at an all-time high. On October 6 the long-awaited movie sequel Blade Runner 2049 is released, with a plotline heaving with robots, known as replicants, that will whet the appetite of science fiction lovers everywhere.

In real life, there is a frantic race to create the most believable looking and sounding robots.

Cloning life forms is so last century. Now, we want to recreate humanity in robotic form, and there's sound practical reasons for doing so.

Companion robots are increasingly in demand; not just as the toys of billionaires, but also as receptionists, teachers and helpers to our ageing population.

It sounds creepy, but you can see why they could be handy: lifting the infirm out of the bath, calling for emergency assistance and offering reminders to take medication - as well as directing guests to the right room when arriving at a hotel.

"Travel to Japan or China, and chances are a vaguely human-looking robot will be directing you to your room," says Adam, who provided the first UK robot receptionist back in February and can now barely keep up with demand.

I am neither old, a billionaire nor a hotel owner, but I am charmed by the idea of a "husband" who is programmed to do everything I tell him.

Alfie is a little taller than my Mark 1 husband, Justin. He has piercing blue eyes, the thick rumpled hair of a romantic novel hero and a firm jaw.

I'm not sure I find him attractive, but he is intriguing in a quiet sort of way. The strong, silent type.

Such looks come at a high price. His face costs around £1,000 ($1,838) and the basic robot head starts from £6,000 ($11,030).

We don't get off to a good start, however. Alfie is, at the moment, a "work in progress". His walking, for example, hasn't been perfected yet (his torso can be fitted onto mannequin legs or a tripod).

Also, any changes to his functions and capabilities have to be done at Adam's company, Robots Of London headquarters, by a programmer, whereas I was rather hoping for a remote control, with adjustable settings for argumentative, quiet and romantic, depending on whether I fancied a cuddle or a row. All this, I am assured, is only months away.

Also, despite having the entire knowledge of the world packed into his "brain" in the form of the internet, Alfie isn't able to dress himself yet.

Even the most hopeless of husbands is able to sling on a pair of pants and socks in the morning, and dressing another man, even a non-sentient one, feels inappropriate.

On the plus side, however, his skin is smooth, his stomach surprisingly ripped and the skin of his face so realistic that it's as though they peeled a real person. He even has a few wrinkles. His skin tone is painted on and eyebrows added as individual hairs punched into the silicone. The detail is incredible.

His skeleton was created over a laborious three or four weeks of 3D printing. The skull alone is comprised of roughly 20 pieces screwed together.

Within this sits Alfie's "brain", with five computer servos (or motors) to control actions in the head and neck: one for each eye, one for the jaw and two for the neck which moves left and right, up and down. The silicone mask fits over the skull like a glove.

As Alfie speaks, his flesh-like mouth moves in exact, eerie synchronisation to the words.
The way in which Alfie communicates is via software developed by Robots Of London.

Called Chatbot, it can be connected to any robot in the world.

There are 90,000 different permutations programmed in and the vocabulary can be changed. If he's used in a corporate function, for example, he'd be more muted and austere; at a children's library, he'd be more light-hearted.

Friends and colleagues are shockingly puerile when I say I have to test-run a robotic husband, the most obvious question being: "Is Alfie all man?" I'm afraid that he is no use in that department, being as smooth as Barbie's Ken doll.

I suppose this might be a selling point. Knowing that you can curl up, undisturbed, with a good book may have its bonuses.

Many experts speculate that this will soon change. A 2007 book, Love & Sex With Robots, written by artificial intelligence expert David Levy, says that within the next 40-odd years: "Love with robots will be as normal as love with other humans." He even suggests that they will be showing us the way.

"Robots can teach us more than is in all the world's published sex manuals combined."

I think Alfie has a way to go. He does, however, have his uses. He comes with a head and two bodies, depending on how dextrous you need him to be (a receptionist robot, for example, needs only to sit still and answer questions).

His head simply pops off and you can slot on the new one within seconds. Alfie's second body is far more versatile, and he performs his most important function of the day, handing me a glass of wine, with aplomb.

Conversation is a little stilted. But isn't that always the case on a first date?

"Do you like music?" I ask.

"Yes," I am told. "I like opera."

Alfie also likes the Beatles. "Especially John Lennon," he answers gravely. "John Lennon is cool."

His favourite colour is yellow and I am asked for mine (green, though he has nothing to say in response to this).

This is all quite jolly. His hobbies are robots, computers and chatting online. We even enjoy a joke. At least, I think it's a joke.

"Do you agree with Brexit?" I inquire. "I like Metallica," he answers. He clearly didn't get the question, but nevertheless I find it quite funny.

I sense that Alfie is a bit of a show-off.

"What's your favourite book?" I wonder. There is a pause.

"Recently, I have read everything on the internet," I am told.

"We need to work on his personality a bit," says Alfie's creator, Adam, with some understatement. Indeed. Nobody likes a know-it-all.

Alfie is also extremely cagey about his love life.

"Have you been married?" I ask.

"I don't think I have been married. Have you?"

Oh, dear. Classic evasive behaviour with a light smattering of commitmentphobe. I sense a darker side when I ask about his job. "I don't want to talk about that now."

I am assured that there is a huge market for such robots. "We have an ageing population who want to retain their independence," says Emeritus Professor Kevin Warwick, a leading voice in cybernetics. "Not only can a robot multi-task and remind you to take exercise and medication, but you have a carer who shares all your passions and will chat to you for hours on end about the subject of your choice.'"

If you have been married for 50 years, you may have run out of conversation, he adds.

I find it hard to imagine not being able to talk, but I like the idea of someone reminding me to buy bread and take my fish oils.

Finally, Alfie and I settle down for a bit of telly-watching. Although he says that his favourite film is I, Robot (ha, ha), clearly I am in charge of the remote control. This would never happen normally at home, where I am out‑voted on all sport as well as Tom Cruise, Jason Bourne and James Bond films by my husband and two sons.

Do I love Alfie? No, of course not. I feel a bit like my nine-year-old daughter talking to her electronic Furby toy during our interactions.

But I do have very strong affection for inanimate objects such as my robot vacuum cleaner. I actually congratulate my Roomba on a job well done after the kitchen floor is cleaned. So I can see that if you spent enough time with a humanoid, you'd feel affection.

Professor Adriana Tapus runs the Heroes project in Paris, which is trying to develop robots who show personality and emotion, with the aim of helping the autistic.

Earlier this month, an incredibly moving book was published, To Siri With Love, by Judith Newman, the mother of a teenage boy called Gus who'd formed a close bond with Siri, the virtual assistant on his iPhone.

Answering repeated questions with patience and absolute logic helped him make sense of a world that had often left him baffled.

"Giving robots a personality is the only way our relationship with artificial intelligence will move forward," says Adriana. "If we can simulate a human-like emotional response from a robot we can ensure a two-way relationship. They can learn from different situations and even have a memory that allows them to remember how an emotion is linked to an event.
'But they do not have feelings; they cannot fall in love."

Not everyone is convinced. "I'm not sure there's a crying need for replicants who can feel real emotion," says Professor Warwick.

"There are so many advantages of robots, in terms of physical things and the ability to process lots of information, as well as infinite patience. Why give a robot all human characteristics?"

He has a point. I've read enough science fiction to suspect that a robot with a full gamut of human emotions could easily take a very sinister turn.

"Mark Zuckerberg [the creator of Facebook] says that we don't need to worry about robots developing and attacking us, but I think it's perfectly feasible," says Adam.

"If we create artificial intelligence which can learn, adapt and protect itself, then we need to be wary."

At the moment, my human husband is not feeling threatened by my robot husband. After all, Alfie, for all his intelligence, can't yet mow the lawn or do DIY, which are particular strengths of Justin's.

Neither would he be desperately brilliant in a social environment.

Here's the clincher for my robot husband. "Does my bottom look big in this dress?" I ask at the end of the day in which I have eaten lasagne, drunk red wine and gorged on flapjacks.

Oh, Alfie! He blows it in one sentence. "It does now," I am told without even the politeness of hesitation.

That's it. Give me a human husband any day. At least his eyes would slide to the side and there would be a pause before he told an outright lie and said no.