Humanoid Robot Sophia - Almost Human Or PR Stunt?

Publication Title
Publication/Creation Date
June 5 2018
Jaden Urbi (creator)
MacKenzie Sigalos (creator)
Hanson Robotics (contributor)
David Hanson (contributor)
Ben Goertzel (contributor)
Kathleen Richardson (contributor)
Yann LeCun (contributor)
Kim Jenkins (contributor)
Media Type
News Broadcast
Persuasive Intent
"Sophia the robot has become a cultural icon. Sophia's creators from Hanson Robotics say they didn't expect it to take off as much as it did. But now, it's raising questions about just how much thought goes into the potential negative consequences of developing AI.

The animatronic robot has made its way across late night stages, graced the cover of magazines, headlined major tech conferences and even delivered a speech to the United Nations. Sophia been touted as the future of AI, but it may be more of a social experiment masquerading as a PR stunt."

This short documentary from CNBC explores Sophia's creator, David Hanson. It traces his career back to working as an Imagineer for Disney, as well as an old research paper he wrote back in 2005,  "Upending the Uncanny Valley". When asked about it now, Hanson responds that he was exploring the "uncanny perception effects both scientifically and artistically, using robots like Sophia" and that "uncanny" robots can help explore what it means to be human.

Right now, Sophia is just a platform that can run different software programs. Ben Goertzel of Hanson Robotics explains that Sophia has 3 control systems: Timeline Editor, which runs pre-written scripts; Sophisticated Chat System (or 'chatbot' software), which allows her to have conversations by identifying words and phrases; and OpenCog, which allows Sophia's responses to be based on experience and reasoning. 

The documentary also explores some of the criticisms surrounding Sophia. Some note that Sophia is just another "traditional representation of conventionally attractive, submissive-by-design female robots". Some experts like Yann LeCun (head of Facebook AI) think that because Sophia's appearances are heavily scripted and controlled, the general public is deceived about how advanced AI really is. Artificial intelligence is nowhere near the level of human intelligence. But in Silicon Valley, it seems to be "a race against" time to see who can first create a fully sentient robot.
HCI Platform
Relation to Body