A humanoid robot known as Sophia made a surprise appearance at a United Nations event yesterday, drawing rapturous applause from attendees.
Sophia has become something of a media sensation over the past year, having given numerous TV interviews, performed in concert, and even graced the cover of one of the top fashion magazines.
During the United Nations meeting on artificial intelligence and sustainable development, she engaged in a brief discussion with UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed on how to help people in parts of the world who have no access to the Internet or electricity.
“The future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed […],” said Sophia, quoting renowned science fiction writer William Gibson.
“If we are smarter and focused on win-win type of results, AI [artificial intelligence] could help proficiently distribute the world’s existing resources like food and energy.”
Ms Mohammed had opened the meeting by warning, despite the potential for technology to drive sustainable development, it needs to be managed well to avoid exacerbating existing inequalities.
“The influence of technology on our societies should be determined by the actions of us, humans, not by machines,” she said. “Technology is here for us to explore and use for the benefit of all.”
Sophia, made by Hanson Robotics, uses artificial intelligence to read people’s emotional responses and react to how they talk and act.
Nicknamed “Hot Sophia”, the bot, modelled after Audrey Hepburn and creator David Hanson’s wife, is able to see with cameras in her eyes. She has 62 different facial and neck mechanisms to create the natural-looking movement under her patented silicon skin.
In the future, Mr Hanson believes that expressive robots will be able to form strong emotional connections with humans .
Opinions on Sophia are divided. The bot has a cult following, with some finding her “alluring”. Others have found the robot, who has the back of her head missing but shows very human gestures on her face, a little creepy.
Earlier this year, she appeared on America’s The Tonight Show with host Jimmy Fallon . Sophia told a joke about cheese and challenged Jimmy to a game of rock, paper, scissors, which of course she won.
Blinking her eyes and smiling like a normal human, she then laughed along before adding: “This is the great beginning of my plan to dominate the human race.”
She also flummoxed Charlie Rose – America’s answer to Jeremy Paxman – when she started flirting with him in an interview.