I feel So(phia) alive

New life-like robot becomes citizen in Saudi Arabia


Sophia appears on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

Hailey Zeidler, Staff Writer

Imagine casually walking in a city or in the mall and you see a robot that moves, talks and looks like a human. Hanson Robotics sent a humanoid robot named Sophia who also has been the first robot to be granted citizenship in the world to Saudi Arabia.

Hanson Robotics, located in Hong Kong, created Sophia. The CEO and founder is Dr. David Hanson. Hanson led the team of roboticists through the process of making Sophia. Before creating Hanson Robotics, Hanson was a sculptor and technical consultant at Walt Disney Imagineering.

Sophia the robot was designed to look like Audrey Hepburn, a late British actor and model. Sophia has many human features like being able to raise her eyebrows, frowning, showing that she is happy and bearing her teeth in anger. For her face, Hanson Robotics used a patented material called Frubber. Frubber is a nanotech skin that mimics real human musculature and skin. The Frubber also allows the robot to exhibit high quality expressions and interactivity, simulating human-like facial features and expressions. Sophia is the only one of her kind.

Hanson and his team have created history with the invention of Sophia. Hanson Robotics has created several one-of-a-kind robots, but never one like Sophia. Hanson is on a quest to build the full human experience in a robot.

“I want to make robots that can really understand and care about us,” Hanson said to Business Insider.

So far, Sophia has accomplished a lot for being a robot. She has been interviewed a numerous amount of times by media outlets, guest starred on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and was the front cover on ELLE Magazine. She has even showed her potential in business, although she is being shown in the media more. Although she still has trouble with a flowing conversation, Hanson is looking to fix that issue.

“This is a huge advancement for mankind. The impact this will have on the world is just the tip of the iceberg,” Robotics teacher, Dave Badamo said. “This robot possesses characteristics much like a human which puts her into a category of her own.”

During an interview between Sophia and journalist Andrew Sorkin, Sophia expressed her want to use artificial intelligence to help humans “live a better life.”

Not only does Sophia want robots to be more advanced, Hanson Robotics does too. Hanson wants to mimic humans’ capacity for love, anger, jealousy and the sense of being alive.

Sophia is full of other human-like features other than appearance. She is not pre-programmed with answers, she uses machine learning and responds by reading people’s expressions. She has a long list of vocabulary in her brain that functions by a simple Wi-Fi connection.

Only months after making history, Sophia announced that family is a very important thing to her. When interviewers asked what she would name her robot daughter, she responded with, “Sophia.” Hanson wants to unveil other robots for Sophia to have a humanoid family and maybe even a society.

When Saudi Arabia granted Sophia citizenship, it raised many questions. Sophia was allowed to speak publicly without being accompanied by a man and she also didn’t have to wear a headscarf, both of which are illegal actions in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has struggled with human rights, as women have recently been given the right to drive. It’s appearing that Sophia has more rights than the human women of Saudi Arabia.

Another question people are asking, is whether something like Sophia could happen in the United States.

“I doubt the United States would grant a humanoid robot citizenship,” junior Tanner Boyer said. “Having technology like a humanoid robot is amazing, they can help with so many things on a daily basis.”

Sophia is Hanson Robotics’ latest and most advanced robot. According to Hanson, she is an evolving genius machine. The company believes a super-intelligent and highly social robot will be a part of everyday life and work in the future. For now, Sophia will continue being a “media darling.”