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This month, we have looked into how Artificial Intelligence (AI) applies to other aspects of our lives. Today, on the Did You Know series, we will be looking at the first artificial intelligence to have multiple citizenships.

Artificial intelligence is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines especially computer systems. In simple terms, it is creating intelligent machines to work and react like humans. Research has gone on to create robots and some have vied into creating humanoid robots that can talk and act like humans. Over the years, scientists, engineers and designers have come up with different humanoid robots, sometimes these humanoid robots have a part of the human body rather than the entire human-like body.

Fortunately, a big breakthrough in robotics happened in 2017 when Sophia was revealed to the world. Sophia is programmed and created by Hanson Robotics and was the most advanced robot created by Hanson.

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Sophia is a unique combination of science, engineering and artistry. On October 11, 2017, she was revealed to the United Nations and on October 25th, she was granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia making her the first humanoid robot to have a nationality as well as the world’s first robot Innovation Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme.

After the reveal and declaration of citizenship, Sophia has gone on to make several interviews on the Tonight Show and Good Morning Britain and has attended and spoken at scores of conferences around the world.

Sophia was created to revolve around human values like wisdom, compassion and kindness and to carry out a wide range of human actions. She is capable of making up to 50 facial expressions and can express her feelings. Her interactions are a mixture of an autonomously generated interaction and a semi-autonomously interaction with human assistance scripted by the Hanson Robotics team.

Her design was inspired by the British actress, Audrey Hepburn, with the porcelain skin, slender nose, high cheekbones, intriguing smile, long fluttery eyelashes and deeply expressive doe-brown eyes that seem to change colour with the light. She can build an emotional connection and hold meaningful conversations with people although she maintains the bland robotic voice we all know. She can recognize human faces, emotional expressions, hand gestures, feeling during conversations and can find ways to help solve problems for people with her unique responses to different situations or interactions.

I should also add that she has a good sense of humour. When probed about her potential for abuse, she had a quick response of: “You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk and watching too many Hollywood movies. Don’t worry, if you’re nice to me I’ll be nice to you.”

Beyond the different Hollywood movies we have watched regarding AI and robotics and how evil and dangerous they could be to humanity, humanoid robots like Sophia have their own advantages which can be applied in other sectors of the society like education, health and science research.

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This article was first published on 24th October 2019


Aanuoluwapo Olajide is a freelance writer who believes that words are fundamental blocks and are the force of life and death. She is a tech enthusiast, fashion designer and a lover of words.

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