Robots are evolving fast. They were invented in Bristol in 1949 by William Grey Walter, who was investigating how the brain works. It is fitting then, that down a wooded slope on the University of the West of England campus, the Bristol Robotics Laboratory is today considered a world leader in its field. The lab covers an area of 3,500m2, its vast yellow-lit space divided into glass sections littered with hard drives and disembodied prosthetic limbs. In the centre is a house. This is their “assisted living” smart home, where researchers are testing systems that could help people with dementia and limited mobility. By the sofa is a “sociobot” that can respond to facial expressions. The most human-looking of the systems, over by the dining table, is a robot called Molly. She has a tablet in place of a chest, for displaying photographs, and “She’ll say, for instance,” my guide explains: “‘Do you remember Paris?’” In that echoing space I found myself suddenly breathless.