Sophia the robot was recently made a citizen of Saudi Arabia, making waves across the world and pushing artificial intelligence (AI) into the spotlight. Sophia is the brainchild of David Hanson, founder of Hansen Robotics, who makes regular appearances with his “robot daughter.” Sophia herself appears as almost a media star, with magazine cover-shoots, talk show appearances, leadership of meditation at conferences, and having made a “speech” to the United Nations and even a speech to the UN.
Experts in the field are split on the subject of Sophia, saying that while the robot embodies previously unreached heights of AI, it’s not yet approaching AGI (artificial general intelligence, the industry term for human equivalent intelligence.) Ben Goertzel, chief scientist at Hanson Robotics, agrees with detractors that Sophia’s AI is nowhere near human level as of yet, but maintains that the hype is beneficial in that it has made the concept of a “human” robot more familiar and palatable to the world population.
Goertzel, who is currently building a “decentralized market for AI” says Sophia is a conglomeration of multiple AIs working in tandem. A simple decision tree drives the robot’s dialogue, with input from face tracking and emotion recognition. Sophia’s movements are generated by deep neural networks.
Hanson Robotics founder David Hanson has a different take on Sophia’s capacity for consciousness and said the robot was “basically alive” to Jimmy Kimmel during an appearance and showed Sophia off at CES. Hanson originally designed his AI to assist with medical therapy, medical education and customer service (as well as other tasks to do with health care, medicine, research, and education) but the packaging and “personality” have been what are captivating audiences
Sophia is modeled after Audrey Hepburn and Hanson’s wife. The robot has lifelike skin made from patented silicon, is programmed with more than 60 facial expressions, and cameras inside her eyes allow her to “track” movement, “recognize” individuals, and “make eye contact.”
Technologically, a combination of Alphabet's Google Chrome voice recognition technology and other tools allow Sophia to process speech and chat, as well as learn and become smarter over time. Hanson is working with IBM and Intel to explore integrating some of their technologies.
The team at Hanson Robotics said they didn't expect Sophia to take off as much as she did. Will the robot daughter lead the way to a fully aware AI? Only the future will tell.