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Sophia, the AI robot: How dangerous is she?

Sophia is one of the most sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) humanoid robots able to interact with people and demonstrate humanlike expressions. But could she be a threat? Learn more about her origins, purpose, and AI in general.

Sophia, the AI robot: How dangerous is she?

What do we know about Sophia?

Sophia, a socially intelligent humanoid robot, was developed by the Hong Kong-based engineering and robotics company Hanson Robotics. Compared to previous robots, Sophia is very advanced and can mimic human gestures as well as hold a simple conversation. David Hanson, together with brilliant AI and robotics experts, has designed Sophia to work with the elderly in nursing homes, with children, with customer service, or to help crowds at large events.

Sophia was first activated on February 14, 2016. Looking like a sci-fi movie character, she is modeled after Nefertiti, the ancient Egyptian queen, the actress Audrey Hepburn, and the wife of the founder of Hanson Robotics, Amanda Hanson.

Sophia’s human resemblance is uncanny – she can imitate over 60 facial expressions identified by the facial recognition API and has lifelike skin made of a material called Frubber. If it weren’t for the flashing chips in the back of her head, you might think Sophia was a real woman.

In October 2017, the Saudi Arabian government granted Sofia citizenship, making her the first non-human to obtain citizenship in any country. Sophia’s creator saw this citizenship as an opportunity to speak out about women’s rights in a country that denies them. Sophia was appointed the United Nations Development Programme’s Innovation Champion a month later.

Sophia’s artificial intelligence

The brainchild of the Hanson Robotics team, Sophia, uses a combination of AI, computer vision helping to navigate her surroundings, and speech recognition technology from Alphabet Inc. that can learn and improve itself over time.

Her speech synthesis, the artificial production of human speech, is provided by the Scotland-based company CereProc and helps create a natural and expressive-sounding text-to-speech voice. Sophia is also able to sing.

She uses machine learning algorithms to process information and generate responses, allowing her to learn and adapt to new situations over time. And as a machine, Sophia can be a great interlocutor. She has been programmed with knowledge of various topics such as art, science, and current events.

It’s important to note that Sophia is not sentient. She, or rather it, is a machine that can mimic humanlike characteristics but doesn’t have consciousness or emotions. It’s a sophisticated technology that can learn and adapt to new situations over time.

Sophia in the public arena

Sophia instantly became a media sensation and was covered by the media worldwide. She attended high-profile press interviews, TV shows, tech conferences, and international news outlets, including CBS, NBC, and the BBC. She even had a date with Will Smith!

Sophia has also appeared on popular TV shows such as The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Good Morning Britain. She was discussed by media outlets like Forbes, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Guardian, highlighting Sophia’s advanced AI capabilities and her role as a representation of the future of robotics and AI technology.

Why was Sophia created?

Sophia was created to showcase the advanced capabilities of Hanson Robotics’ technologies and to demonstrate the potential applications of these technologies in different industries. She was intended to spread the word about the importance of understanding AI and to serve as a platform for discussions on the ethics and implications of AI.

By creating a lifelike robot able to hold a conversation and express humanlike emotions, Hanson Robotics aimed to show AI’s capabilities and demonstrate what is possible in the development of humanoid robots.

Is Sophia dangerous?

We have all seen dystopian films where robots take over the world and threaten humanity. Calm down – Sophia is different. Despite her famous saying, “Okay, I will destroy humans,” in an interview with CNBC in March 2016, Sophia is not inherently dangerous.

She is designed as a friendly and interactive robot promoting public understanding and engagement with AI technology. When creating Sophia, Hanson Robotics took various safety measures and restrictions to ensure that she could not cause harm to humans.

Artificial intelligence in 2024

AI technology made a giant leap and demonstrated its potential application to even more various industries. Everything from natural language processing (NLP) to computer vision and AI audio tools like Voice AI or chat systems such as ChatGPT showed significant improvements and, without a doubt, will continue to expand in 2024. (You can read our article on what ChatGPT is to learn more about the bot and find out why VPN is beneficial when using ChatGPT.)

AI is likely to get even better at understanding human language more accurately and interpreting visual information. You might have heard the term “AI hallucination.” It refers to a phenomenon of AI tools providing misleading or false information. But fast development in machine learning will likely lead to more accurate predictions and improved decision-making. What’s more, AI is expected to be even more widely adopted in the workplace, automating routine tasks and augmenting human productivity.

Rapidly improving AI technology requires a regulatory framework from an ethical perspective. AI solutions such as deep-fake cannot be unbound by legislation, and businesses must use them safely and ethically. We should therefore see AI ethics becoming a top priority in 2024.


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