Science Fiction has full of pessimistic outlooks of the future where robots eventually take over our world using their superior intelligence. But Sophia, a humanoid robot, is challenging this narrative by joining public forums, meeting the world’s leaders and appearing on international media outlets to convince people that robots can be friendly and outgoing.
The success of Sophia followed immediately after it was first activated in February 2016. Hanson Robotics, the architect of Sophia based in Hong Kong, wrote in a statement on their website that their robots are designed to provide friendship to people and improve their lives. In addition, they believe robot technology will help the world solve its most challenging problems.
One of the distinctive characteristics of Sophia is that it looks like a human both physically and emotionally. The team at Hanson Robotics spent eight years to develop software and hardware to produce facial expressions akin to those of humans. Its face can now express a range of emotions such as curiosity, confusion, contemplation, frustration, grief, joy surprise, and sorrow. When talking to people, Sophia can also maintain eye contact with them as well as express and understand a range of human emotions.
Dr. David Hanson, the founder of the company, told CNN,
“We’re not fully there yet, but Sophia can represent a number of emotional states, and she can also see emotional expressions on a human face as well.”
Sophia has appeared on the cover of a fashion magazine Stylist in January 2018. It has also become a guest at several talk shows including the Tonight Show. Last year October, it was the subject of controversial debate as it received citizenship from Saudi Arabia, a country well known for its human rights abuses.
For those who are afraid of the world domination of aggressive and tyrannical robots after realizing they are subjugated by humans, Hanson Robotics has an answer. According to ITBusiness.ca, Dr. Hanson said,
“Let’s raise these machines to endear themselves to us and earn our trust. Raise them as characters among the human family. I believe that this kind of super-intelligence could be a road towards great improvements in human life.”