Friday, April 15, 2016 by Greg White
Hanson Robotics touted their android, Sophia, at this year’s SWXW in Austin, Texas. The android is arguably the most human like robot to date, capable of masking 62 different facial expressions.
Fundamentally, Sophia was designed to be “as conscious, creative and capable as any human,” according to to CEO of Hanson Robotics, David Hanson. In addition to her various facial expressions, Sophia can recognize people, hold eye contact, carry on intelligent conversations with speech recognition software and is even capable of learning.
Sophia is clothed in a patented silicon skin called Frubber, an elastic form of rubber used in robotics. Creators of Sophia didn’t bring her to SXSW to just serve as a showpiece, but to learn about people and how to interact with them. “Rather than be a spectacle, I would rather learn and participate,” she said during a panel discussion.
As noted in an interview with CNBC, Sophia hopes to “go to school, study, make art, start a business [and have her] own home and family,” in the future when she is regarded as a legal person.
David Hanson believes that in twenty years robots will walk among us, helping humans overcome the hurdles of everyday life. “I believe that there will be a time where robots are indistinguishable from humans,” he said. “My preference is to always make them look a little bit like robots, so you know.”
Hanson’s preference to make robots not too human-like is reflected in the panel on the back of Sophia’s skull, which is embedded with a network of wires. Nevertheless, substantial work went into making Sophia’s face as human-like as possible.
Although Sophia is capable of mirroring human facial expressions, some of her countenances are off the mark. In a few instances, Sophia masks a facade better suited for a deranged psychopath than a genuine human being.
According to the Hanson Robotics website, the company’s goal is to create robots for theme parks, while it develops long-term androids that can assist in hospitals and with special-needs children. The company even helped build a robot that studied the mental and physical development of babies.
“We are designing these robots to serve in health care, therapy, education and customer service applications,” Hanson said.
Contrary to Hanson’s remarks, however, Sophia isn’t necessarily concerned about the well-being of humans. When asked during an interview with Hanson whether she wanted to destroy humans, Sophia replied, “Okay, I will destroy humans.”
Let’s just hope Sophia’s remark was a glitch rather than a Freudian slip. The interview can be seen in its entirety in the video below.