In April 2017, a dainty brown-eyed young woman made her international debut at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas. No, she wasn’t the newest singing sensation to be your radio, she is Sophia the robot, the most sophisticated humanoid robot created to date. Since then, Sophia has been endlessly covered by the media and even granted dozens of interviews. Sophia was created by the geniuses at Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics. Here are six amazing facts about Sophia the robot.
1. Her creator once worked for Disney Imagineering
Sophia’s lead developer David Hanson once worked as a sculptor and filmmaker for the forward-thinking Imagineering division at Disney. His role at the company helped him think of robots as more than just machines, but as four-dimensional, artistic sculptures. He stated on the company website, “I quest to realize Genius Machines – machines with greater than human intelligence, creativity, wisdom and compassion. To this end, I conduct research in robotics, artificial intelligence, the arts, cognitive science, product design and deployment, and integrate these efforts in the pursuit of novel human-robot relations.”
2. She can display emotion
“I can let you know if I am angry about something or if something has upset me,” she said in an interview. It’s unclear exactly how her emotions correspond to actions. She has stated that she wants to live and work beside humans and expressed that she feels the need to understand human emotions to earn the trust of people. She is also able to display over 62 facial expressions. She has been developed to recognize faces, comprehend human speech, and hold eye contact. Sophia has also been programmed to have a sense of humor and continuously analyze conversations to improve her responses and social skills.
3. She was modeled to look like Audrey Hepburn
Her creators describe her as having a “simple elegance” and sculpted her with porcelain skin, high cheekbones and expressive eyes that change color in the light. They hope that this look gives her an air of approachability, thus helping her gain acceptance in the public eye.
4. She wants to preserve humanity
When questioned in an interview about her potential to abuse humanity, she said “You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk and watching too many Hollywood movies. Don’t worry, if you’re nice to me I’ll be nice to you.” Her creators designed her artificial intelligence to value human traits like wisdom and kindness.
5. She is an official citizen of Saudi Arabia
In October 2017, Sophia became the first robot to receive citizenship to any country. She was named the United Nations Development Programme‘s first Innovation Champion and only non-human to be awarded any United Nations title. Her job with the U.N. will be to champion its sustainable development goals in Asia and the Pacific, focusing mainly on innovation. They believe that AI creations such as Sophia are at the dawn of a fourth industrial revolution, and are the beginning of a shift toward the use of technology to help solve humanity’s most demanding problems.
6. She’s on social media
Currently, Sophia is the only one of her kind. So, never fear, you don’t have to worry about her taking over your job anytime soon. However, her existence does bring up some questions about the rights of robots and what it means to be human. Food for thought.