AI Humanoid Sophia World's First Robot Embarks on World Tour

Published October 29th, 2018 - 07:27 GMT
Sophia is modelled after Audrey Hepburn, and was designed by Hong Kong firm Hanson Robotics (AFP)
Sophia is modelled after Audrey Hepburn, and was designed by Hong Kong firm Hanson Robotics (AFP)

The AI humanoid Sophia has been granted the world's first robot visa as she embarks on a world tour on behalf of her Hong Kongese creators.

She was issued the electronic visa upon her arrival at Azerbaijan's Baku International Airport shortly before meeting the Caucasus nation's president, Ilham Aliyev.

The AI celebrity is in Azerbaijan for a tech conference, where she is a keynote speaker.

Sophia first emerged two years ago as a super-intelligent human-like head with a realistic face that was able to blink, look from side to side and talk.

But the robot's eloquent use of language and intricate facial expressions have stirred suspicion among AI experts, who say Sophia is merely a 'sophisticated puppet'.

'Mr. President, I am pleased to meet with you. Azerbaijan has amazed me,' Sophia said as she met with Aliyev in the southern Azerbaijani city of Imishli last week.

'I have seen Baku's unique architectural style, modern buildings and other technological achievements.'

Both were attending the opening ceremony of a new service centre built by the Azerbaijan Service and Assessment Network (Asan), the country's e-government platform.


Having just taken over all of Azerbaijan's e-government services, Asan issued the robot with an electronic Visa upon her arrival in Baku.

'Despite your busy schedule you have visited Azerbaijan and it pleases us very much,' Aliyev said.

'We are opening together with you a new Asan center. It is also innovation and it reflects our capacity and intention to build up our modern country.

Sophia is modelled after Audrey Hepburn, and was designed by Hong Kong firm Hanson Robotics.

She controversially became the world's first robot to be granted legal rights at an event in Saudi Arabia last year.

While Sophia has some impressive capabilities, she does not yet have consciousness, and it is unclear how much her AI drives her movement and speech.

In January, one of Facebook's top AI technicians slammed Sophia and her creators for 'deceiving the public'.

In a fiery Facebook post, Yann LeCun, head of AI research at the social media giant, claimed Sophia is a 'sophisticated puppet' that is not as intelligent as it seems.

'Many people are being deceived into thinking that this (mechanically sophisticated) animatronic puppet is intelligent. It's not,' Mr LeCun wrote.

'It has no feeling, no opinions, and zero understanding of what it says ... It's a puppet.'

Sophia is the brainchild of Dr David Hanson, a leading roboticist who heads up Hong Kong firm Hanson Robotics.

Dr Hanson claimed in May that androids will share the same civil rights as humans by the year 2045, including the right to marry both people and other robots.

He wrote in a research paper that by 2029 android AI will match the intelligence of a one-year old human.

This will open the door for androids to assume menial positions in the military and emergency services just two years later in 2031, leading to full rights a decade later.


This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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