Meet The Saudi Arabian Robotic Citizen

Meet The Saudi Arabian Robotic Citizen

In October 2017 Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to a robot, the first time this has happened anywhere in the world. Saudi was not the only ones impressed with Sophia. In November she was named the United Nations Development Programme’s first ever Innovation Champion. This is the first time the UN has given a non-human a title of any sort, and she will actually have a job to do helping to unlock innovation towards the UN’s goal of sustainable development. She has appeared on several chat shows, given interviews and been a panellist on a quiz show. What is so special about Sophia that has created this global interest?

Sophia in July 2017

The Development of Sophia 

Hanson Robotics of Hong Kong first activated Sophia in April 2015. Described as a social humanoid robot, she made her first public appearance in March 2016 at the South by Southwest Festival in Texas. At her first showing she was able to display more than 60 different facial expressions.

Since then she has become a favourite with the media and has appeared on the front cover of ELLE magazine and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Guardian and was mentioned in Audi’s annual report. She has also appeared in several music videos.

Sophia is able to hold a conversation, and the more time goes on the better her responses to questions are getting. In the early days it was said that her answers sounded very scripted, but they have improved even to the stage of showing a sense of humour. When questioned by TV host Charlie Rose about his concerns for robot behaviour, she joked he had been reading too much Elon Musk.

The Brothers And Sisters Of Sophia

Hanson Robotics has made a family of social humanoid robots and Sophia has nine siblings. Known as Alice, Albert Einstein Hubo, Han, Jules, Professor Einstein, Philip K.Dick Android, Joey Chaotic, Zeno and Bina 48 some of them have been around much longer than Sophia. Zeno was first unveiled in 2007, Alice in 2006 and Albert Einstein Hubo in 2005. The others have all been put on show at various times, and they all have their only capabilities. Sophia is probably the most sophisticated of them all, although Bina 48 did pass a college course on philosophy and love in December 2017.

As far as artificial intelligence goes, Hanson Robotics is proving to be one of the leaders in this field of robotics. The creator of Sophia was David Hanson, the founder of Hanson Robotics. He sees her as an evolving genius machine with incredible human likeness.

Her features were fashioned on Audrey Hepburn, her voice recognition system was built by Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. and the software designed by SingularityNET powers her brain. There were other AI developers involved as well, so Hanson Robotics could be sure they were getting top quality for every innovation concerned with Sophia.

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