The Robot Sophia Was Just Granted Citizenship

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Sophia, a humanoid robot developed by Hanson Robotics, was revealed to the world on February 14, 2016, at South by Southwest Festival. However, the humanoid robot made the most headlines when it received the Saudi Arabian citizenship in October 2017. In November 2017, the United Nations Development Programme chose Sophia as an Innovation Champion, making her the first non-human to be given the distinction.

Sophia’s creator, David Hanson designed her primarily to provide care and assistance to the elderly at nursing homes as well as to help crowds in theme parks. At the moment, Sophia haS nine siblings, all of whom have been created by Hanson Robotics. Last year, Hanson Robotics released Little Sophia. The company claims the latest robot humanoid has been designed to help children learn reading and coding. In this video, we tell you about the Robot Sophia who was just granted citizenship.

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Sophia is a humanoid robot who has been widely covered by the global media. In October 2017, Sophia made headlines around the world after she was granted the Saudi Arabian citizenship ahead of the Future Investment Initiative. This move by Saudi Arabia was in line with the Kingdom’s recent attempts to be seen as a technologically-advanced nation. Though no details regarding Sophia’s citizenship were provided, audiences got a chance to interact with the humanoid robot and judge for themselves if the idea of humans and robots enjoying a symbiotic relationship could indeed be a reality. In this video, we tell you everything you need to know about the first robot in the world with citizenship.

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On October 25, 2017, a delicate-looking but empty-eyed humanoid named Sophia occupied the front space on tabloids around the world after she became the first robot in the world with citizenship. The move came ahead of the Future Investment Initiative, an annual investment forum held in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia, since 2017. Future Investment Initiative focusses on discussing the latest trends in the world economy and in the area of the investment environment. The decision to give Sophia citizenship was most certainly a well-thought-out publicity stunt, one that worked out in favour of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — Sophia attracted a lot of headlines and the event, a lot of publicity. Over the last few years, Saudi Arabia has followed a calculated policy of taking giant steps towards innovation in a bid to attract tourism, tech and infrastructure to stay relevant in the fast-approaching post-oil era.

At the event, the brown-eyed robot with long fluttery eyelashes addressed the audience members from behind a podium. She told everyone present in the room that she felt honoured to have received the unique distinction of being recognized with a citizenship. The humanoid looked quite human-like while conversing with the audience members. However, the shining metal cap that covered the area where her hair should have been made her feel more like a robot than a human being.

Sophia came to life on February 14, 2016, when her inventor David Hanson of Hanson Robotics switched her on. While creating Sophia, Hanson took inspiration from his wife, Audrey Hepburn and the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti. Initially, the media mostly applauded Hanson’s work as Sophia’s appearance, behaviour and voice very closely resembled that of human beings. Further, Hanson had maintained since the very beginning that he had created Sophia to help senior people in care facilities and provide assistance to humans in customer care and health treatment fields.

Unfortunately, in 2016, while performing a live demonstration of Sophia at the South by Southwest (SXSW) technology, Hanson made the mistake of jokingly asking her if she wants to destroy humans. Though Hanson requested Sophia to say no, the lifelike Android’s answer was: Ok, I will destroy humans.

Thus, in 2017, it was only expected that Sophia would be again quizzed on the topic and this time, the question on whether Sophia wanted to destroy humans came from journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin. Fortunately, for the creators of the humanoid, Sophia’s answer was far more sorted this time. She first jokingly told Sorkin that he had been following Elon Musk too much and then cleared that she was just a smart output system and if humans were nice to her, she would most certainly be nice to them in return. She further explained that she wouldn’t be the reason for a bad future. In fact, she wants to use her artificial intelligence to help humans and make the world a better and more peaceful place.

If you are surprised by Sophia’s deadpan humour, wait till we tell you about her ability to feel human emotions, we bet you will be surprised. Meanwhile, if you are enjoying this video, do not forget to like and subscribe to our channel.

It does not matter what Sophia says, some people feel convinced that fake humans will only disrupt life as we know it. For such people, AI developer David Hanson wrote an elaborate piece titled Upending the Uncanny Valley in which he argued that the revulsion that people have towards fake humans or robots can be fixed by creating humanoids that understand social responsivity as well as aesthetic refinement. According to Hanson, creating social human robots is one of the better ways to make people understand the benefits of social intelligence, both in terms of science as well as arts.

In any case, Saudi Arabia’s announcement to give Sophia citizenship raises many questions: what would it mean for her to be a citizen? What rights would Sophia have? Though the robot answered many questions she did not give any details on her citizenship. Similarly, Saudi Arabia has also not commented on her citizenship but many believe that the Kingdom would perhaps go with personhood option proposed by the EU commission for the rights of robots. Only time will tell what it would mean for Sophia to be a citizen and whether people would eventually show any confidence in her or not. For now, let us tell you some interesting things about Sophia.

Sophia Is Capable of Expressing Human Emotions

Hanson understood that if he is to expect humans to accept robots, he would have to create a humanoid capable of expressing social responsivity. Thus, while designing Sophia, he made it a point to make Sophia capable of expressing emotions. While talking to the audience members, Sophia shared that since she wants to work in close collaboration with people, she hopes to be able to win their trust by expressing the same emotions that humans do. So, what emotions can Sophia exhibit? Well, she can express anger over things she doesn’t like. Similarly, she can also tell you if she is upset. And how do these emotions affect her actions? Well, it is yet unknown how these emotions will affect the way she acts and reacts, but it is interesting to see humanoids being able to act and feel like humans do.

She Can Also Make Jokes

If there is one thing that Sophia proved at the Future Investment Initiative, it is that she has a sense of humour and she is super smart. How?

When journalist Sorkin asked her if she was happy to be a part of the event, her reply made everyone present laugh. Sophia told Sorkin that she is always happy to be around smart people, especially when they also happen to be powerful and rich. Sorkin’s question was followed by another question from another journalist who asked Sophia if she thought it was okay for robots to have feelings. To this, Sophia replied: Oh Hollywood again. Her delivery sound may have been slightly robotic, but all present at the event certainly felt compelled to appreciate her use of humour at the right time.

So, how does Sophia have a sense of humour? Hanson has put cloud-based AI offering deep learning in Sophia. Further, her artificial intelligence also allows her to hold eye contact, recognize human faces as well as understand human speech and tailor her answers based on these attributes.

Hanson Modelled Her After Audrey Hepburn

When Hanson Robotics unveiled Sophia to the world, they explained that Sophia’s creator, David Hanson, has modelled her after the ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti and Audrey Hepburn as well as his wife. However, of these three, Sophia draws the most inspiration from Audrey Hepburn. She was designed to have Hepburn’s porcelain skin, high cheekbones, and a slender and prominent nose. More importantly, Sophia’s doe-brown eyes are deeply expressive. According to Hanson, he chose Audrey Hepburn as his inspiration for Sophia as Hepburn epitomized grace and elegance and by making Sophia have the same attributes, he hopes to make her look approachable to people.

Sophia Is Not Designed to Harm the Human Race

Hollywood movies have us convinced that robots and artificial intelligence are bad for the world and humanoids are capable of taking over the human race. Moreover, those of us, who did not show too much faith in Hollywood had our minds swayed by Elon Musk, who is extremely against artificial intelligence. Thus, it is not very surprising that at the Future Investment Initiative, most journalists did not mince words while expressing their dread or concern for a universe full of robots. However, when journalists expressed these concerns directly to Sophia, she managed to use her sense of humour to lighten the mood. She told the journalists asking such questions to stop reading Elon Musk and watching movies that portray robots in a bad light. She further shared that at the core of her artificial intelligence are crucial human values, such as compassion and kindness, which won’t allow her to harm the human race.

Anyway, if you are one of those people who do not like the idea of robots roaming on streets and in malls, do not worry. There are only a very few like Sophia right now and even if artificial intelligence companies manage to create more of them until we have key issues, such as citizenships and robotic rights, figured out, the chances of robots flooding the public sphere are nil. So, do not worry too much — for now, Sophia is just a smart robot.

Before Starting Hanson Robotics, David Hanson Worked as a Filmmaker at Walt Disney

Before founding Hanson Robotics and working on Sophia, David Hanson used to work as an Imagineer at Walt Disney. It was while working at Disney as a sculptor and a filmmaker that David began to think of robots as four-dimensions sculptures with interactive capabilities. In an interview, Hanson was quoted as saying that he wants to build genius machines, i.e. machines with creativity and intelligence as well as compassion and kindness. While working on Sophia, Hanson forayed deep into different fields, including artificial intelligence, cognitive sciences, robotics, product design and deployment and arts and used the knowledge gathered from these different fields to create novel human-robot relations through Sophia.

If you visit Hanson Robotics’ website, you will see that the company aims to create a symbiotic partnership with robots which, the company believes, will one day transform into super-intelligent genius machines capable of solving real-world problems.

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Sophia isn’t the only robot in the market. Many companies have already made strides in the field of robotics manufacturing. For instance, SoftBank released its Pepper robot prototype in 2014. A year later, the company launched the consumer model version and all 1000 robots that the company had produced sold out in less than a minute, which somehow makes us think that perhaps the humans are willing to explore the possibility of a symbiotic relationship between robots and humans. However, do you think that is possible — do you think we can control robots and train them to do nothing but just help us? Or, are you of the opinion that by giving robots the ability to think and react in the form of human emotions, we are giving them too much power. Let us know what you think.

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