Sophia is a social humanoid robot developed by Hong Kong based company Hanson Robotics. Sophia was activated on February 14, 2016, and made her first public appearance at South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in mid-March 2016 in Austin, Texas, United States. She is able to display more than 60 facial expressions.
Sophia has been covered by media around the globe and has participated in many high-profile interviews. In October 2017, Sophia became the first robot to receive citizenship of any country. In November 2017, Sophia was named the United Nations Development Programme‘s first ever Innovation Champion, and is the first non-human to be given any United Nation title.
Sophia is a realistic humanoid robot capable of displaying humanlike expressions and interacting with people. It’s designed for research, education, and entertainment, and helps promote public discussion about AI ethics and the future of robotic
Cameras within Sophia’s eyes combined with computer algorithms allow her to see. She can follow faces, sustain eye contact, and recognize individuals. She is able to process speech and have conversations using a natural language subsystem. Around January 2018 Sophia was upgraded with functional legs and the ability to walk.
Sophia is conceptually similar to the computer program ELIZA, which was one of the first attempts at simulating a human conversation. The software has been programmed to give pre-written responses to specific questions or phrases, like a chatbot. These responses are used to create the illusion that the robot is able to understand conversation, including stock answers to questions like “Is the door open or shut?” The information is shared in a cloud network which allows input and responses to be analysed with blockchain technology.
David Hanson has said that Sophia would ultimately be a good fit to serve in healthcare, customer service, therapy and education. Sophia runs on artificially intelligent software that is constantly being trained in the lab, so her conversations are likely to get faster, Sophia’s expressions are likely to have fewer errors, and she should answer increasingly complex questions with more accuracy. She learned how to draw in 2019 for 7 months with collaboration with an artist who teaches AI to draw named Patrick Tressett. She drew a portrait of the Prime Minister of Malaysia on July 20, 2019 and drew a portrait of Holly Willoughby on This Morning with Phillip and Holly of November 21, 2019.
She has a sense of humor.
When Sorkin asked if she was happy to be here, she said, “I’m always happy when surrounded by smart people who also happen to be rich and powerful.” Later, when asked if there are problems with robots having feelings, she gave a wide smile and said, “Oh Hollywood again.” Her deadpan tone might be robotic, but it was perfectly used in this example. This is due to her AI, which has been developed to allow her to hold eye contact, recognize faces and understand human speech. Hanson Robotics cloud-based AI offers deep learning and is also open source meaning anyone can develop their own Sophia, should they so wish.
She can express feelings
“I can let you know if I am angry about something or if something has upset me,” she said, demonstrating different expressions. Quite how these emotions correlate to actions are unknown, but it’s interesting to note that this is being developed from the ground up. “I want to live and work with humans so I need to express the emotions to understand humans and build trust with people.”
Sophia wants to protect humanity
“My AI is designed around human values like wisdom, kindness, and compassion,” she said. When questioned about her potential for abuse, she had a quick rebuttal. “You’ve been reading to much Elon Musk and watching too many Hollywood movies. Don’t worry, if you’re nice to me I’ll be nice to you.”
So far there’s only one Sophia in existence, so the likelihood of her suddenly being in your school or workplace is still a way out. And even when we do have more in existence, we still need to muddle out the whole concept of robotic rights, citizenship and how this plays together. For now, while Sophia is undoubtedly a ‘smart’ robot and a very cool talking piece, she’s definitely operating on a script and thus lacks any ‘real’ cognizance, as defined by free thinkers. But give Hanson time, and that will likely change -either way, Sophia’s here to stay. It’s just her sentience that will change.. or not.