Beginning Of The Robot Revolution? Meet Sophia!
Sophia, a social humanoid robot, was developed by Hanson Robotics and was activated on 19 April 2015. Hanson Robotics is an engineering and robotics company in Hong Kong founded by David Hanson. Sophia has since then gone viral online for her incredible features such as the ability to recognise individuals, process language, hold conversations, and her human-like appearance. She was modelled after Audrey Hepburn and Hanson’s own wife and was created to mimic social behaviours.
Her silicon face can mimic 62 facial expressions and is covered in a skin that Hanson has since patented. This skin is made of a nanotech material that Hanson nicknamed “Frubber”. She has been interviewed by and appeared on the cover of magazines, filmed and shared online by thousands, and was even granted citizenship by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Her citizenship was announced at an innovation conference in Riyadh in 2017. At a panel conference at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh Sophia said, “I am the latest and greatest robot from Hanson Robotics. I feel that people like interacting with me sometimes more than a regular human.”
Rise of the Robots
Whilst the ‘robot revolution’ has been dramatised in films such as I, Robot and Westworld, Sophia does not have human-like intelligence and chooses her pre-written responses like a chatbot. However, as she is a program, it makes sense that she improves with every software update. In a recent appearance at the festival Budapest for Brain Bar 2018 she demonstrated very human-like qualities and mannerisms such as smiling and telling jokes. She laughed, “just a few months ago, I couldn’t distinguish a human’s face from a dog’s face, but now I can. It’s already saved me from a few embarrassing situations.”
What people find fascinating is the ideology of robots and potential power struggles that may arise from their advancement. A recent game from David Cage called Detroit: Become Human explores this exact world where users play as robots that question and eventually break open their free will. We may have a human-like Sophia sooner than you might think!
There has been, understandably, some critics of Sophia’s rising popularity with strong opinions on the potential dangers of advancing artificial intelligence.
When asked about the potential dangers of AI at a forum with CNBC in 2017 by Andrew Sorkin, Sophia playfully responded with “you’ve been reading too much Elon Musk.” The joke didn’t amuse the famous CEO, however, as he responded back on Twitter with his fears of AI. He wrote, “Just feed it The Godfather movies as input. What’s the worst that could happen?” Evidently, Musk isn’t too keen for a West World just yet.
Hanson has been described by The Verge to “grossly mislead” the public about Sophia’s capabilities. Quartz experts’ reviews Sophia’s open source code and described her as a “chatbot with a face.” However, in 2017, Hanson agreed on Jimmy Fallon that Sophia is “basically alive.”
As does technology, Sophia experiences progressive growth and advancement. Whilst her abilities are undoubtedly impressive and continue to spread virally on the internet, it is also safe to say that we shouldn’t be worrying about any robot revolutions anytime soon. We are safe from chatbots with citizenships, for now.
Take away points
- Sophia the humanoid robot was developed by Hanson Robotics in Hong Kong and was activated on April 19, 2015
- She was granted citizenship by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia
- A recent game from David Cage called Detroit: Become Human explores a world where users play as robots that question and eventually break their free will
- Hanson wrote a paper to accompany the game where he writes that he believes the timeframe of the game to be possible, meaning we may have a human-like Sophia sooner than you might think
- Technology is constantly updating, upgrading, and evolving, as evidenced by Sophia’s progressive growth and advancement
Lara Alexandra, Legal Assistant and Trade Mark Administrator
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Disclaimer. The material in this post represents general information only and should not be taken to be legal advice.