World’s first robotic citizen Sophia to help drive research in artificial general intelligence

Scaling the production of Sophia and driving research in artificial general intelligence (AGI) will be the two primary goals of the world’s first robotic citizen in the next two years, says creator Dr. David Hanson.
Crafted in the likeness of his wife, Sophia is the first robot ever to be granted a citizenship. The humanoid, created by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics, is a life-size human-like machine, which makes multiple facial expressions, understand sentences and has casual conversations with humans.

The earlier versions of the humanoid created by Hanson Robotics are being used for research in autism among other diseases, while the latest version fitted with mechanical legs allows her to climb stairs and be more agile. This has expanded the scope of the robot’s application.

“We are going to train her in all the skills required for search and rescue operations, and deploy that as a standard platform for service robotics,” Dr. Hanson said.

As the demand for such living character technology increases, the startup is scaling its applications. We have started scaling the manufacturing of Sophia and we have made 14 Sophias,” Dr. Hanson said. “We are scaling the manufacturing to make 100s of units and testing her.”

The humanoid has previously been invited to speak at several high-level conferences including the United Nations and has appeared on The Tonight Show alongside Jimmy Fallon. The artificially intelligent robot has also made headlines over her comments on a host of issues ranging from women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, to Elon Musk’s doomsday view of AI, and once said she wanted to destroy humans.

The creator of the humanoid says there is much more to AI than all these comments as she is still ‘evolving’. “We are working in partnership with a number of service robotics verticals… Autism treatment, medical depression treatment, medical education, insurance education, and customer service application (are our target markets),” Dr. Hanson said.

While the largest chunk of the revenue comes from service robotics, Sophia is also being used as a platform for research in AGI, which is absolute human-like intelligence that allows machines to perform any intellectual task a human can.

“The wide range of application in service robotics market is useful for AGI development… The new grasping and gestural arms, combined with a social face means she can use human tools, walk alongside humans, and learn better,” Dr. Hanson added.

That said, Sophia also has her critics. Earlier this month, Facebook’s head of AI research Yann LeCun dubbed Sophia as a ‘puppet’ and ‘complete bullshit’ who is not yet intelligent. Hanson responded to the comment saying, “there have been some unkind words recently. They are unfair and ill-informed”.

“What we have is a very earnest and intensive effort for AGI. The words are unkind, unfair, and could be considered bullying. Once somebody is in a position of power, they shouldn’t pick on a little startup for taking an alternate approach to AGI,” Dr. Hanson said.

“To see people connect with these robots in an emotional way speaks to me and says that we can utilise these kinds of living character technology for an emotional interface between humans and AI,” he added.

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