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Everything You Need To Know About Sophia Robot

Sophia Robot, a delicate-looking woman with doe-brown eyes and beautiful fluttery eyelashes, grabbed international headlines on October 25. She’d just become the first robot in the world to be granted full citizenship in Saudi Arabia.

“I am deeply honored and proud of this one-of-a-kind distinction.” “It’s historic to be the world’s first robot to be granted citizenship,” Sophia said, unveiling her new status during the Future Investment Initiative Conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Standing behind a podium, she displayed a humanoid appearance – except for the shiny metal cap on her head, where hair would be on a human head.

Of course, Sophia’s revelation was a premeditated marketing ploy designed to generate headlines and put Saudi Arabia at the forefront of your mind when considering innovation, particularly its commitment to a post-oil era. Non-oil revenue is expected to increase from $43.4 billion to $266.6 billion per year through a combination of tourism, technology, and infrastructure.

However, Sophia’s declaration raises a lot of Bladerunner-style questions. What does citizenship entail? What are Sophia’s legal rights? Saudi Arabia has not yet commented on this; perhaps it will create a ‘personhood’ option for robot rights, as proposed by an EU committee in January.

Committe Chief scientist of Hanson Robotics, Ben Goertzel (R), describes to the audience what... [+] 'Sophia the Robot' (L) is made of during a discussion about the future of humanity in a demonstration of artificial intelligence. (credit: ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP/Getty Images)

Ben Goertzel (R), Hanson Robotics’ chief scientist, describes to the audience what… [+]

Hanson Robotics, led by AI developer David Hanson, conceived of the Sophia-bot.  In his published work, Upending the Uncanny Valley, he extrapolates on how humanoid robots can be appealing, despite the widespread belief that anything that resembles a person is repulsive to people. “We believe that realistic robots must achieve some level of integrated social responsivity and aesthetic refinement in order to be appealing to people,” he wrote. “Representing the social human in as much detail as possible can help us better understand social intelligence, both scientifically and artistically.”

Here’s what you need to know about her.

Sophia the robot


She has a sense of humor.

“I’m always happy when I’m surrounded by smart people who also happen to be rich and powerful,” she answered when Sorkin asked whether she was happy to be here. Later, when asked if there are any issues with robots having feelings, she smiled broadly and added, “Oh, Hollywood again.” Her deadpan tone may be artificial, but it worked brilliantly in this instance. This is owing to her artificial intelligence, which has been programmed to allow her to maintain eye contact, recognize faces, and understand human conversation. Hanson Robotics’ cloud-based AI provides deep learning and is also open source, allowing anybody to create their own Sophia if they so desire.

'Sophia' an artificially intelligent (AI) human-like robot developed by Hong Kong-based humanoid... [+] robotics company Hanson Robotics is pictured during the 'AI for Good' Global Summit. (Credit: ABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

She can express feelings

“I can show you if I am angry or upset about something,” she stated, showing various faces. It’s unclear how these emotions correspond to behaviors, but it’s worth noting that this is being built from the ground up. “I want to live and work with humans, so I need to express my emotions in order to understand them and build trust.”

'Sophia' an artificially intelligent (AI) human-like robot developed by Hong Kong-based humanoid... [+] robotics company Hanson Robotics is pictured during the 'AI for Good' Global Summit. (Credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

She was designed to look like Audrey Hepburn

Sophia, according to Hanson Robotics, captures Hepburn’s classic beauty, with porcelain skin, a narrow nose, high cheekbones, an engaging grin, and deeply expressive eyes that appear to change color with the light. They describe her as having’simple elegance,’ and they believe that her approachability will help her gain acceptance in the public eye.

David Hanson (C), chief executive officer (CEO) of Hanson Robotics, reacts to 'Han the Robot' (R)... [+] and 'Sophia the Robot' (L). (Credit: ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP/Getty Images)

Her creator, David Hanson, used to be a Disney Imagineer.

Hanson’s work as a sculptor and filmmaker at Disney inspired him to think of robots as four-dimensional interactive sculptures, with artistry at the heart of the entire design. “I strive to create Genius Machines—machines with greater intelligence, creativity, wisdom, and compassion than humans.” To that goal, I pursue research in robotics, artificial intelligence, the arts, cognitive science, product design, and deployment, and combine these efforts in the pursuit of unique human-robot relationships,” Hanson stated on the company website. “We envision our robots evolving into super intelligent genius machines that can help us solve the most difficult problems we face here in the world through a rough symbiotic partnership with us.”

His creation is a reflection of his thinking. “I want to use my AI to help people live better lives,” Sophia stated. “Build better cities of the future, just like you design smarter homes.”

Sophia wants to protect humanity

“My AI is built around human values such as wisdom, kindness, and compassion,” she explained. She had a fast retort when asked about her potential for abuse. “You’ve been reading a lot of Elon Musk and watching a lot of Hollywood movies.” Don’t worry, I’ll be good to you if you’re nice to me.”

thus far, there is only one Sophia, thus the possibility of her appearing in your school or office is still a possibility. Even if we have more, we still need to figure out the whole concept of robotic rights, citizenship, and how all of this fits together. For the time being, while Sophia is undeniably a’smart’ robot and a very cool talking piece, she’s clearly following a script and hence lacks any’real’ consciousness, as described by free thinkers. But give Hanson some time, and that will most certainly alter – in any case, Sophia is here to stay. It is only her consciousness that will alter… or not.


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