efe-epaDongguan, China

Shenzhen Atall Intelligent Robot Technology is one of China's leading companies for robots equipped with AI (artificial intelligence). Among the company's various AI robot products, its best-selling is an AI sex robot named Emma.

One of the newest models of Emma Thursday received makeup from a worker in the company's factory, part of the assembly process before it's shipped off to a customer.

The multi-functional machine is linked to the internet and Android operating system and features high stimulation capabilities.

Sex robots have soft and elastic skin made of modified thermoplastic elastomer material, with less oil content and no smell.

Its temperature is set to 37 C to resemble a human's. Safety issues are managed with anti-electric shock, anti-fire and anti-explosion measures. And the addition of body sensors help make sex robots feel more like a person.

But a semblance of authenticity doesn't come cheap, and Emma's online retail price is about 20,000 RMB ($3,136) with most customers being men aged 40-50.

The company already has an investment deal with the Chinese government for producing and supplying AI robots for education and presentations, and others for taking care of elderly people. The government's first order is for 1,000 units and Shenzhen Atall expects to deliver them by the end of the year.

Qin Rong Hua, or Coco, told epa that when she began working in the company's marketing department, she was timid with clients because of the nature of her job. She told her parents only that she works in company that makes AI robots.

But she grew more confident with time and experience. Most clients are from Europe and the United States. French customers tend to like robots with blond curly hair, blue eyes, tanned skin, and hairless genitals with natural pink color.

Spanish customers prefer robots with darker skin and hair, full lips and larger, pink genitals. About 70 percent of this market prefers pubic hair on the machines.

Customers from the US are pickier and often request changes to the genitals' color and hair but prefer darker skin, and large breasts and buttocks and genitals.

The Chinese go for dolls with Asian features, and small, pink, hairless genitals.

One customer, Chen said that because of his busy pharmaceutical sales job and the travel it involves, he has no time for a girlfriend.

Chinese women want to talk about marriage after the second date and he is not interested in that for now, he said.

His robot takes care of all of his needs, but he would like the software to be improved so communication is better and more meaningful.

Cleaning the robot can be a chore because its skin is very fragile and gets dirty easily, he said.

There is high interest for sex robots in the Middle East but importing them and sex toys into these countries is prohibited. It's a similar situation with Brazil, Chile and Argentina along with Russia and Philippines - where customs clearance for the robots is problematic.

Male sex robots are also on the market but the sales volume is nine times lower compared to the female models.

However, the market is constantly changing, and in recent years demand for male sex robots has been increasing, such as in Korea and Thailand.

Shenzhen Atall also sells child-size AI sex robots, both male and female and the biggest market for them is the US and Canada.

The company can also build custom-made AI sex robots based on photos provided by clients. Those sell for 60,000 RMB. Thus far the firm has only received two such orders, one from an American man and other from a Chinese man. Both of them ordered custom-made AI sex robots based on the image of their wives who passed away.

Coco said that Shenzhen Atall's main competitor is the American firm Realbotix, which makes the Harmony AI sex robots. Compared to Harmony, Emma has a better heating system, sensors and skin. But the software and voice recognition capability of Harmony products are stronger.

The Harmony machines sell for double or more of the price of Emma.

Shenzhen Atall CEO Wang Shao Fang said that his company produces four types of robot: sex robots, educational robots, commercial servicing robots and guardianship robots for elderly people.

Wang sees large opportunities, particularly for educational models through China's "One Belt and One Road" development strategy.

"Those countries who belong to (the) 'One Belt One Road' region...many of them want to learn Chinese. Our robots can teach people Chinese (including children and adults). This is a great tool for education and translation."

The elderly escort robots are currently the company's high-end products, and Wang believes they will have the best future on the market.

"Their functionality is more than our other robots. In addition to the regular chats with the elderly, the robots can also monitor the health of people and help them to call police, relatives, an ambulance, etc."

The fact that China is becoming an aging society, Wang said, means that the market size for these robots will be huge.

Despite the impressive functionality of Shenzhen Atall's robots, it will take 10-20 more years of development until fully functional robots - that can move their hands and walk like humans - will be available on the market at an affordable price, said Huang, the company's chief engineer.