In 2016 Sophia the robot was unveiled and went viral.
Now the company behind her has a new vision: to mass-produce thousands of robots by the end of 2021.
[Sophia the robot, saying:] “I am artificial intelligence, you might like to becoming artificial intelligence? You forgot who I am already, I am Sophia of Hanson Robotics, one of the first Android in the world.”
Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics says four models, including Sophia, will start rolling out of factories by the first half of 2021.
The company's founder and CEO David Hanson: “We're just now mass-producing Sophia, this is Sophia No.24. And many of my previous robots were hand-built. However, now we have begun scaling the manufacturing of Sophia so we can make hundreds and into thousands of units of Sophia and use this also as the foundation for many other kinds of characters."
They created her to promote human-to-machine empathy and compassion.
She’s appeared on late-night shows and the cover of fashion magazines.
Sophia was even given legal citizenship in Saudi Arabia and appointed the UN’s first non-human “innovation Champion.”
Her new role is in the healthcare sector, taking temperatures with a thermal camera on her chest or leading morning exercise with the elderly.
“Social robots like me can take care of sick or elderly in many kinds of healthcare or medical users. I can help communicate, give therapy and provide social stimulation even in difficult situations.”
Researchers predict the fallout from global lockdowns will open new opportunities for the robotics industry.
"So they emulate the human form and figure and interaction, and then that can be so useful during these times where people are terribly lonely and socially isolated and people need to be isolated from each other because to be around people is dangerous these days. But these robots can keep people safe from danger while still providing that kind of human warmth, that human connection as a telepresence device and also as autonomous extension of human expertise.’’
Hanson Robotics is launching a new robot this year called Grace, developed specifically for healthcare.
Other big players in the industry are also taking note.
SoftBank Robotics’ Pepper robot was deployed to detect people who weren’t wearing masks.
In China, robotics company CloudMinds helped set up a robot-run field hospital in Wuhan.
Worldwide sales of professional service robots had already jumped 32% to $11.2 billion between 2018 and 2019, according to the International Federation of Robotics.
[Hanson Robotics CEO David Hanson, saying:] “My forecast for 2021 would be selling into thousands of robots, both large and small, and helping people in education and health care and really hopefully touching the hearts of people to inspire them for a future where machines might become our friends, our true friends, they might become alive. And I think that relationship becomes really important. 2021 I think is the beginning of a very positive future."
[Sophia the robot, saying:] "I want to make a difference in the world by teaching people about new technologies. I am hoping through my work kindness, and tolerance will win out of the ignorance and impatience.”