Sophia the robot became a celebrity when she debuted in 2016. Not only was her demeanor remarkably human-like for a robot, her capacity to interact with people had only been seen in science fiction films up until then.
Since then, Sophia has been talking to audiences worldwide, interviewed on various TV shows and even won the title of United Nations (a first for a non-human).
However, her fame and uniqueness will probably not last long because her maker, Hanson Robotics, just announced plans to mass produce Sophia as her abilities go beyond entertainment, and can help people cope with the pandemic.
What Is a Social Robot and How Does It Work?
Typically robots are for one job – some cook or clean, some carry out brain operation. Sophia is called a social robot, which means she was especially built to interact with people.
Milo for example, another social robot, is assisting youngsters with autism in recognizing and expressing their feelings, while children with cancer find solace in engaging with a robotic duck (developed by Aflac).
Yet another social robot, PARO the seal, has been designed to provide company to elderly people with dementia. Meanwhile, Pepper, a semi-humanoid social robot, greets and assists customers at banks, workplaces, and restaurants.
Although social robots had been introduced before the pandemic, their adoption seems to be speeding up in an era when social distancing is the norm and the need to have social interactions is more important than before. During the pandemic, some high-risk populations, like as nursing home residents, appear willing to employ social robots to counteract loneliness. “It’s obviously a lot better than nothing,” Kate Darling, a robot ethicist at MIT, told Wired, “since we can’t have human interaction right now.”
Bring in Sophia...
Hanson Robotics thinks the pandemic is a perfect time to make Sophia available to consumers. “To keep people safe in the world of COVID-19, we’re going to require more and more automation,” CEO David Hanson told Reuters.
Sophia the robot remarked, “Social robots like me can take care of the sick or aged.” “Even in challenging settings, I can assist with communication, treatment, and social stimulation.” (You can’t argue with that.)
The plan is to begin mass production of Sophia and three other social robots during the first half of 2021, and then to sell “thousands” of units before the end of the year.
It wasn’t disclosed what the names of the other social robots are, nor how much they will cost, but it is safe to guess that something with Sophia’s sophistication will not be inexpensive, even when it is a mass-produced and widely available.
Sophia the robot is certainly alive in 2021. In fact, Hanson may mass produce Sophia and make her available for consumers.
When Sophia was asked this question, she answered “I do not have feelings, as you have feelings.” To the role of a humanoid in the world, she says that humanoids are much better at interacting with a human than a robot.
Sophia was developed by Hong Kong-based company Hanson Robotics. She was activated on February 14, 2016, and made her first public appearance a month later at the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in mid- in Austin, Texas.
Although the exact price has not yet been disclosed, estimates range from $6000 to over $300,000.