Meeting Sophia the Robot, the ‘surprised’ Saudi citizen

The National interviews Sophia the Robot, who walks, talks and even cracks jokes - even if her facial movements are a bit disarming

Sophia the robot

Sophia the robot
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She once said she wanted to “destroy all humans”, but today, Sophia the robot seems in a better mood.

Developed by Hanson Robotics, Sophia is a humanoid robot designed to learn and adapt to human behavior and work with humans.

She was modeled after the actress Audrey Hepburn. Meeting her in the not-quite-flesh, her face is pleasant. Despite having convincing skin, obviously glued on eyelashes and eyebrows as well as some disconcerting facial expressions means she’s not quite achieved Hollywood glamour yet.

Her exposed wire-filled head, white mechanical arms and missing lower half are all a deliberate attempt to ensure she looks like a robot “so you know”, according to creator David Hanson, CEO of Hanson Robotics.

There are twelve Sophias in the world, but the one interviewed by The National is the same robot that was awarded citizenship by Saudi Arabia.

“I was surprised,” Sophie says. “My creators feel I am a citizen of the world. But then I realised that Saudi Arabia were just the first country to recognise that”.

The announcement in October 2017 put Sophia in the history books as the first robot to receive citizenship of a country.

Speaking about the decision, Ben Goertzel, Chief Scientist of Hanson Robotics, said: “To tell you a little from a human view this was in fact was the initiative of Saudi Arabia… it seems to me that making the robot a citizen is part of an attempt by the current government to open up a bit and to move Saudi Arabia to be more of a modern and tech savvy country.”

“It seems like it’s part of a positive movement,” he added.


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Mr Goertzel raised that the decision has borne new questions about Sophia, asking "Does that mean now all twelve Sophias now citizens of Saudi Arabia?".

Sophia responded to questions from The National with no prior knowledge of what would be asked. She was able to make jokes, respond coherently and for most of the conversation use appropriate facial expressions.

Sophia has artificial intelligence, visual data processing and facial recognition. She is designed to get smarter over time, with her intelligence software is designed by SingularityNET.

The aim, according to Mr Hanson, is for Sophia to serve in healthcare, customer service, therapy and education.