Meeting Sophia the Robot

I got to meet Sophia the Robot today.

She can see faces, make eye contact, recognize people and improvise answers. She spoke at the United Nations and was named the first robot citizen (Saudi Arabia).

Humanoid robots have a long way to go, but the advancements in A.I., psychology and uses for this kind of technology are fascinating.

What struck me most was how the young people in the crowd were eager to project humanity upon a robot that was clearly reading a script and had a full-time human attendant manning her mainframe during the back and forth interview.

They didn’t care how carefully constructed the event was or how much artificial intelligence was being used versus scripts. Instead, they were entranced at a talking robot with human-like features and emotional cues.

She talked about disruptive technology and how it doesn’t come out of the blue but rather from theoretical or philosophical principles that over the years mature into real world manifestations like herself.

She knows she freaks people out and says that our role as humans will be to decide how we want to build approved forms of communication and understanding (like humanoids with human faces using English and mimicking our behaviors) and then choose how we want to interact with them or allow them into our lives.

At CES, Sophia took her first steps last month. A walking humanoid will be all the more easily accepted and creepy, won’t it?

At today’s event, she talked a lot about elder care and psychology (treating PTSD) in the short-term, which is more realistic — especially given the success of innovations like PARO the therapeutic seal that I’ve had the opportunity to pet multiple times.

Overall, awesome experience. We have a cool marketplace here with lots of smart people helping engineer the what’s-next. It was fun to gather with them and talk about the future today. The future with talking and thinking robots.