Researchers at Toshiba’s Akimu Robotic Research Institute were thrilled ten months ago when they successfully programmed Kenji, a third generation humanoid robot, to convincingly emulate certain human emotions. At the time, they even claimed that Kenji was capable of the robot equivalent of love. Now, however, they fear that his programming has taken an extreme turn for the worst.“Initially, we were thrilled to see a bit of our soul come alive in this so-called ‘machine,’” said Dr. Akito Takahashi, the principal investigator on the project. “This was really the last step for us in one of the fundamentals of the singularity.”Kenji was part of an experiment involving several robots loaded with custom software designed to let them react emotionally to external stimuli. After some limited environmental conditioning, Kenji first demonstrated love by bonding with a stuffed doll in his enclosure, which he would embrace for hours at a time. He would then make simple, but insistent, inquiries about the doll if it were out of sight. Researchers attributed this behavior to his programmed qualities of devotion and empathy and called the experiment a success.What they didn’t count on were the effects of several months of self-iteration within the complex machine-learning code which gave Kenji his first tenderness. As of last week, Kenji’s love for the doll, and indeed anybody he sets his ‘eyes’ on, is so intense that Dr. Takahashi and his team now fear to show him to outsiders.