Sophia from Hanson Robotics is a Humanoid Robot that can Mimic 62 Human Facial Expressions
“Success in creating Artificial Intelligence would be the biggest event in human history.”– Stephen Hawking
When Professor Hawking makes a statement that’s not intentionally witty, he means it. He means it because he has spent time pondering over it. So how accurate is the quote above? At the time of this writing there is no good answer to that because as of now we are taking baby steps toward creating the ‘AI success’ that would make Hawking proud, or sweat, depending on what this success means at the time of its realization.
These baby steps involve building human-like robots with AI that is about as good as it can get for these times. There are several companies attempting to create robots that look and behave like us but one start-up is at the helm of this mini-revolution of sorts. We are talking about Hong Kong based Hanson Robotics.
Hanson Robotics made worldwide news earlier this year when they unveiled their latest humanoid robot – Sophia – at SXSW. Sophia has since made several public appearances including one in China to a packed crowd of tech enthusiasts. Sophia introduced herself first in English and then in Mandarin to wow the Chinese audience at the Global Mobile Internet Conference held in Beijing a couple of months ago.
In the year 2016 there is no dearth of robotics start-ups but Hanson Robotics is a unique venture in the sense that it is entirely focused on building human-like robots. The Founder of the company, David Hanson, is a robotics designer by trade and through Hanson Robotics he has built some incredible human-like-in-appearance robots.
Sophia isn’t the first humanoid built by Hanson Robotics but it is certainly the most popular thanks largely to its quirky resemblance to Ava from the Sci-fi flick Ex Machina. Sophia’s skin is made of silicon and the inspiration for her face came from Audrey Hepburn and Davin Hanson’s wife. However, it’s not just the face that Hanson Robotics wants you to notice.
“I will destroy humans.” – Sophia, humanoid robot
Sophia and other increasingly sophisticated robots from Hanson Robotics are able to communicate with humans quite efficiently. She hasn’t passed the Turing test yet so there is nothing to be alarmed or excited about. In fact she had a slip of the tongue in an interview with CNBC when she responded to David Hanson’s query on whether or not humans should be destroyed. All the cuteness aside Sophia is programmed to exhibit 62 human facial expressions and is bi-lingual.
Sophia even has her own website which is apparently controlled by a chatbot named after her – sophiabot.com. David Hanson has made Sophia pretty much the face of Hanson Robotics and she is busy making public appearances and giving interviews worldwide.
Some of the earlier human-like robots built by Hanson Robotics included Han, Jules, and Albert Einstein HUBO. Hanson Robotics uses a patented material called Frubber (flesh rubber) to create the skins for its robots. Frubber is a proprietary nanotech skin that looks exactly like real human skin. It essentially mimics the arrangement of muscles in the human skin. But there is more to Hanson Robotics than the high quality artificial robot skin at display.
The company has its own cloud-based AI that it calls MindCloud.
MindCloud™, our cloud-based AI, enables large-scale cloud control of our robots, as well as deep-learning data analytics for processing the rich social data gathered from the millions of interactions with our robots.” – From Hanson Robotics website
At the moment Hanson Robotics seems focused on building and showcasing its brilliant humanoids to the world but we will have to wait and see when these robots can become truly human-like in appearance from head to toe. When a robot can pass as a human in the crowd, without the crowd noticing it, is when robotics and AI will take the next leap.
Check out Sophia’s interview with the Wall Street Journal below. Be warned. She speaks her mind.