Watching a recent video posted by CNBC depicting an interview with the humanoid robot named Sophia designed and developed by Hanson Robotics, you are taken through an entire series of emotions. What begins as a very unsettling series of facial expressions performed by Sophia ends with what probably wanted to be a humorous question coming from the interviewer: “Sophia, do you want to destroy humans?” to which the robot interviewee responds in a very Siri-like manner “Ok, I will destroy humans.”
Attempting to be funny, cute and dismissive regarding an age-old fear that human beings have about the idea of robots evolving to the point where they start enslaving or killing their masters actually resulted in a pretty cringe-worthy moment. But the overall effect of the video is hardly comical.
On one hand, Sophia the robot is mesmerizing and displays an astounding achievement of the scientists and engineers from Hanson Robotics. On the other hand, I don’t think there’s anyone who can watch the video without some strange feeling of unease. But it would be unfair to say that the feeling of unease comes from fear of a robot uprising; instead, at fault lies Sophia’s extremely uncanny resemblance to a human.
While robots have existed amongst us in various forms for a while already, seeing one such as Sophia changes things a bit. You can surely tell she’s not human from the slightly forced facial expressions and head movements; that is, if the huge amount of tech and circuitry sticking out of the back of her head wasn’t enough notice. But you can’t help but recognize the fact that she is very close to a human.
At this point, Sophia is only a robot head really, but capable of neck motion, a huge array of facial expressions and gifted with responsive speech abilities. One day, robots such as her are expected to help people with a large amount of activities, ranging from therapy, healthcare and education to customer service and household tasks.
Sophia’s creators believe that in the next two decades, robots with begin to live and coexist with us, without being very distinguishable from humans. Even this particular robot is already capable of observing her environment, detecting faces and learning how to interpret expressions. Sophia is capable of learning and improving her abilities with time, so it surely won’t be long until she can pave the way to that future.
I’m sure I speak for a fair few individuals when I say that this seems very familiar to how the Animatrix started.
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