Image from: http://www.hansonrobotics.com/robot/sophia/
Meet Sophia, one of the leading robots introduced by Hanson Robotics on October 2017, created by David Hanson. Oh yea, and she is the first robot to hold a citizenship with Saudi Arabia.
Advancements of artificial-intelligence has unveiled what we were familiar from movies or were suspicious of back-door government funded programs to a robot that lives among us and has similar fundamental rights of human beings. Crazy right? The time has come and this is only 1 of the many to come and exist in our environment. She has become mainstream by being featured on magazine covers such as Elle Magazine, attending conferences such as Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative and attending shows such as The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
Even though she is about 1.5 years of age, she is a full grown women with capacity to hold a conversation, make jokes, learn to develop emotions and dresses and looks fashionable.
She has facial expressions that are a bit sarcastic, blinking eyes, moving head and arms. Each video I watched of her progression, you can tell her look and development has increased tremendously.
One thing to note is how “natural” she seems to appear. The more human-like and “pretty” someone is, the most we are able to open up and interact with that android. Imagine if they put a reptile head on her instead. Would we have reacted the same? no.
Also, why does she have a wig with short, straight hair- a common look of CEO and leaders. This goes back to discussion of what types of hairs are more socially acceptable. Let’s be real, we need to get over having short hair to think we exude power. Hair, no hair, big, small, curly, straight, frizzy- it should not matter. The message is clear by looking at Sophia.
What does Barbie and Sophia have in common?
Sophia was created by a team of men. Suprise, suprise.. I was recently watching a show on Netflix called The Toys That Made Us in which they had an episode on the creation of Mattel’s Barbie toy.
When Barbie was in the early stages of development, the designers chose to have a look that can be easily commercialized and marketed. White, blond hair, tiny waist, model-esque all around. Just like Sophia, the first introduction of a realistic robot resembles a white female. If Hanson Labs were to create others in the future, of course the later ones will be ethnically and physically diverse. Why can’t the first be?
Anyway, at some point after accounting scheme of Ruth Handler, a group of men created what they thought was a genius new Barbie called “Growing up Skipper” with the slogan “Make her grow from a young girl to a teenager in seconds”.
Basically the Barbie has small breasts until you manually turn her arm in a circle and miraculously she has bigger breasts. The female creative directors and the mothers around thought this was perverted and soon sales dropped. While the men thought it was the best idea ever, which obviously further sexualized the Barbie, the women knew it was wrong in all kinds of ways. That being said, while Sophia was created by a group of men, I would love to see a competitor or more women engineers with robotic background. I watched a show on Shark Tank for Smart Gurlz (https://www.smartgurlz.com/ ) and want to applause these kinds of efforts. It is the world’s first coding robot for girls. You go!
The concept of a doll being dressed up by a human is similar to Sophia. She does not get to choose…at least not yet. If Hanson Labs programs her to select clothes, would she develop her own thoughts and style? Or would it have been prescribed?
I will keep watching her progress as well other other robots made by Hanson Labs and others. Please comment below on your thoughts on this topic!