Sophia (robot)

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Sophia is a social humanoid robot developed by Hong Kong based company Hanson Robotics. Sophia was activated on February 14, 2016,[1] and made her first public appearance at South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in mid-March 2016 in Austin, Texas, United States.[2] She is able to display more than 60 facial expressions.

Sophia has been covered by media around the globe and has participated in many high-profile interviews. In October 2017, Sophia became a Saudi Arabian citizen, the first robot to receive citizenship of any country.[3][4] In November 2017, Sophia was named the United Nations Development Programme's first ever Innovation Champion, and is the first non-human to be given any United Nation title.[5]


Sophia was activated on February 14, 2016.[6][7] The robot, modeled after the ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti,[8] is known for human-like appearance and behavior compared to previous robotic variants. According to the manufacturer, David Hanson, Sophia uses artificial intelligence, visual data processing and facial recognition. Sophia also imitates human gestures and facial expressions and is able to answer certain questions and to make simple conversations on predefined topics (e.g. on the weather).[9] Sophia uses voice recognition (speech-to-text) technology from Alphabet Inc. (parent company of Google) and is designed to get smarter over time. Her speech-synthesis ability is provided by Cereproc's Text-to-Speech engine and also allows her to sing. Sophia's intelligence software is designed by Hanson Robotics.[10][11] The AI program analyses conversations and extracts data that allows it to improve responses in the future.[12]

Hanson designed Sophia to be a suitable companion for the elderly at nursing homes, or to help crowds at large events or parks. He has said that he hopes that the robot can ultimately interact with other humans sufficiently to gain social skills.[3]

Sophia has nine robot humanoid “siblings” who were also created by Hanson Robotics.[13] Fellow Hanson robots are Alice, Albert Einstein Hubo, BINA48, Han, Jules, Professor Einstein, Philip K. Dick Android, Zeno,[13] and Joey Chaos.[14]


Sophia's internals

Cameras within Sophia's eyes combined with computer algorithms allow her to see. She can follow faces, sustain eye contact, and recognize individuals. She is able to process speech and have conversations using a natural language subsystem.[1] Around January 2018 Sophia was upgraded with functional legs and the ability to walk.[15]

Sophia is conceptually similar to the computer program ELIZA, which was one of the first attempts at simulating a human conversation.[16] The software has been programmed to give pre-written responses to specific questions or phrases, like a chatbot. These responses are used to create the illusion that the robot is able to understand conversation, including stock answers to questions like "Is the door open or shut?"[17] The information is shared in a cloud network which allows input and responses to be analysed with blockchain technology.[18]

David Hanson has said that Sophia would ultimately be a good fit to serve in healthcare, customer service, therapy and education.[19] Sophia runs on artificially intelligent software that is constantly being trained in the lab, so her conversations are likely to get faster, Sophia's expressions are likely to have fewer errors, and she should answer increasingly complex questions with more accuracy.[20] She learned how to draw in 2019 for 7 months with collaboration with an artist who teaches AI to draw named Patrick Tressett. She drew a portrait of the Prime Minister of Malaysia on July 20, 2019 and drew a portrait of Holly Willoughby on This Morning with Phillip and Holly of November 21, 2019 [21] [22]

Public figure[edit]

On November 21, 2017, Sophia was named the United Nations Development Programme's first-ever Innovation Champion for Asia and the Pacific.[4] The announcement was made at the Responsible Business Forum in Singapore, an event hosted by the UNDP in Asia and the Pacific and Global Initiatives. As part of her role, Sophia will help to unlock innovation to work toward achieving the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals. On stage, she was assigned her first task by UNDP Asia Pacific Chief of Policy and Program, Jaco Cilliers.[23]

Sophia has appeared on CBS 60 Minutes with Charlie Rose,[24] Good Morning Britain with Piers Morgan,[25] and outlets like CNBC, Forbes, Mashable, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, and the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Sophia was featured in AUDI's annual report[26] and was on the cover of ELLE Brasil magazine.[27] Sophia has also appeared in videos and music videos, including The White King, and as the lead female character in pop singer Leehom Wang’s music video A.I.[28]


Sophia speaking to a crowd, 2017

Sophia has been interviewed in the same manner as a human, striking up conversations with hosts. Some replies have been nonsensical, while others have impressed interviewers such as 60 Minutes' Charlie Rose.[12] In a piece for CNBC, when the interviewer expressed concerns about robot behavior, Sophia joked that he had "been reading too much Elon Musk. And watching too many Hollywood movies".[29] Musk tweeted that Sophia should watch The Godfather and asked "what's the worst that could happen?"[30][31] Business Insider's chief UK editor Jim Edwards interviewed Sophia, and while the answers were "not altogether terrible", he predicted she was a step towards "conversational artificial intelligence".[32] At the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, a BBC News reporter described talking with Sophia as "a slightly awkward experience".[33]

On October 11, 2017, Sophia was introduced to the United Nations with a brief conversation with the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed.[34] On October 25, at the Future Investment Summit in Riyadh, the robot was granted Saudi Arabian citizenship, becoming the first robot ever to have a nationality.[31][35] This attracted controversy as some commentators wondered if this implied that Sophia could vote or marry, or whether a deliberate system shutdown could be considered murder. Social media users used Sophia's citizenship to criticize Saudi Arabia's human rights record. In December 2017, Sophia's creator David Hanson said in an interview that Sophia would use her citizenship to advocate for women's rights in her new country of citizenship; Newsweek criticized that "What [Hanson] means, exactly, is unclear".[36] On November 27, 2018, Sophia was given a visa by Azerbaijan while attending Global Influencer Day Congress held in Baku. December 15, 2018, Sophia was appointed a Belt and Road Innovative Technology Ambassador by China.[37]

Controversy over hype in the scientific community[edit]

According to Quartz, experts who have reviewed the robot's open-source[38][39] code state that Sophia is best categorized as a chatbot with a face.[17] Many experts in the AI field disapprove of Sophia's overstated presentation. Ben Goertzel, the former chief scientist for the company that made Sophia, acknowledged that it is "not ideal" that some think of Sophia as having human-equivalent intelligence, but argues Sophia's presentation conveys something unique to audiences: "If I show them a beautiful smiling robot face, then they get the feeling that 'AGI' (artificial general intelligence) may indeed be nearby and viable... None of this is what I would call AGI, but nor is it simple to get working." Goertzel added that Sophia did utilize AI methods including face tracking, emotion recognition, and robotic movements generated by deep neural networks. Sophia's dialogue is generated via a decision tree, but is integrated with these outputs uniquely.[40]

According to The Verge, Hanson often exaggerates and "grossly misleads" about Sophia's capacity for consciousness, for example by agreeing with Jimmy Fallon[17][41] in 2017 that Sophia was "basically alive".[40] In a piece produced by CNBC which indicates that their own interview questions for Sophia were heavily rewritten by her creators, Goertzel responds to the Hanson quote by suggesting Hanson means Sophia is "alive" in the way that, to a sculptor, a piece of sculpture becomes "alive" in the sculptor's eyes as the work nears completion.[42]

In January 2018, Facebook's director of artificial intelligence, Yann LeCun, tweeted that Sophia was "complete bullshit" and slammed the media for giving coverage to "Potemkin AI". In response, Goertzel stated that he had never pretended Sophia was close to human-level intelligence.[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mallonee, Laura (March 29, 2018). "Photographing a Robot Isn't Just Point and Shoot]". Wired. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  2. ^ "Meet Sophia, the female humanoid robot and newest SXSW celebrity". PCWorld. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Meet the first-ever robot citizen — a humanoid named Sophia that once said it would 'destroy humans'". Business Insider. October 27, 2017. Retrieved October 28, 2017.
  4. ^ a b "World's first robot 'citizen' Sophia is calling for women's rights in Saudi Arabia". CNBC. Retrieved May 16, 2018.
  5. ^ "UNDP in Asia and the Pacific Appoints World's First Non-Human Innovation Champion". UNDP Asia and the Pacific. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
  6. ^ "Photographing a robot isn't just point and shoot". Wired. March 29, 2018.
  7. ^ "Hanson Robotics Sophia". Hanson Robotics.
  8. ^ "David Hanson Interview". The Ethics Incubator. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  9. ^ "Hanson Robotics in the news". Hanson Robotics.
  10. ^ "Beh Goertzel: How Sophia the robot works". aNewDomain. June 1, 2018. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  11. ^ "I met Sophia, the world's first robot citizen, and the way it said goodbye nearly broke my heart". Business Insider. October 29, 2017. Retrieved October 30, 2017.
  12. ^ a b "Charlie Rose interviews ... a robot?". CBS 60 Minutes. June 25, 2017. Retrieved October 28, 2017.
  13. ^ a b "The first-ever robot citizen has 7 humanoid 'siblings' — here's what they look like". Business Insider. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  14. ^ White, Charlie. "Joey the Rocker Robot, More Conscious Than Some Humans". Gizmodo. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  15. ^ Video, Telegraph (2018). "Sophia the robot takes her first steps". The Telegraph. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  16. ^ Fitzsimmons, Caitlin (October 31, 2017). "Why Sophia the robot is not what it seems". Retrieved November 3, 2017.
  17. ^ a b c Gershgorn, Dave (November 12, 2017). "Inside the mechanical brain of the world's first robot citizen". QZ. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  18. ^ "This company wants to grow A.I. by using blockchain". CNBC. September 17, 2017. Retrieved November 14, 2017.
  19. ^ "Meeting Sophia the Robot, the 'surprised' Saudi citizen". The National. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  20. ^ "I interviewed Sophia, the artificially intelligent robot that said it wanted to 'destroy humans'". Business Insider. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ UNDP RCB (November 21, 2017), Sophia the Robot is UNDP's Innovation Champion for Asia-Pacific, retrieved January 4, 2018
  24. ^ Charlie Rose interviews... a robot?, retrieved January 4, 2018
  25. ^ Good Morning Britain (June 21, 2017), Humanoid Robot Tells Jokes on GMB! | Good Morning Britain, retrieved January 4, 2018
  26. ^ "AI's Age". Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  27. ^ "Sophia on ELLE Magazine - Hanson Robotics Ltd". Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  28. ^ 王力宏 Wang Leehom (September 19, 2017), 王力宏 Leehom Wang《A.I. 愛》官方 Official MV, retrieved January 4, 2018
  29. ^ "A robot threw shade at Elon Musk so the billionaire hit back". CNBC. October 26, 2017. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  30. ^ Elon Musk [@elonmusk] (October 25, 2017). "Just feed it The Godfather movies as input. What's the worst that could happen?" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  31. ^ a b "Saudi Arabia bestows citizenship on a robot named Sophia". TechCrunch. October 26, 2017. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
  32. ^ Maiman, Justin (November 13, 2017). "Watch this viral video of Sophia — the talking AI robot that is so lifelike humans are freaking out". Business Insider. Retrieved November 14, 2017.
  33. ^ "CES 2018: A clunky chat with Sophia the robot". BBC News. January 9, 2018. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  34. ^ "'Sophia' the robot tells UN: 'I am here to help humanity create the future'". The Guardian. October 13, 2017.
  35. ^ "Saudi Arabia gives citizenship to a non-Muslim, English-Speaking robot". Newsweek. October 26, 2017.
  36. ^ "Saudi robot Sophia is advocating for women's rights now". Newsweek. December 5, 2017. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  37. ^ "China Honors Sophia the Robot with "Belt and Road Innovative Technology Ambassador" Award". Hanson Robotics. January 2, 2019. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  38. ^ chatbot on
  39. ^ Innovations Technology on "Our AI software is open source:,, and"
  40. ^ a b "Sophia the robot's co-creator says the bot may not be true AI, but it is a work of art". The Verge. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  41. ^ "Tonight Showbotics: Jimmy Meets Sophia the Human-Like Robot". YouTube. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. April 25, 2017. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  42. ^ "Humanoid Robot Sophia - Almost Human Or PR Stunt". YouTube. CNBC. Retrieved July 29, 2018.
  43. ^ "Facebook's AI boss described Sophia the robot as 'complete b------t' and 'Wizard-of-Oz AI'". Business Insider. January 4, 2018. Retrieved January 7, 2018.

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