Her name is Sophia. She has just been born, but is already able to interact and communicate with people of all ages. It is not a freak of nature, but… of men. In fact, Sophia is the name given to the first humanoid robot, resembling a woman, which is ready to assault the international market. Born with the aim of providing assistance to people in shopping malls and theme parks, its use is likely to extend to care facilities for the elderly. As usually, arises the following question: how far can technology go in creating clones of humanity? Where are the limits of “creation”? Can artificial intelligence go beyond the boundaries of sensitivity?
Without demonizing anything, it is a matter of fact that giving way to the use of the machines not only entails the risk of making mankind grow unnatural sluggish, but also opens efficiency scenarios that are used as a quality paradigm when we know that the most important parameter for a human being is interaction, empathy, and exchange. A highly efficient robot might be of help to a good nurse, but an outright replacing of the latter sends shivers down the spine.
Nonetheless, the project keeps going on. Inspired to Audrey Hepburn’s body shape and face, Sophia is a robot designed and built by Hanson Robotics, an American company, in collaboration with the Japanese scientist Hiroshi Ishiguro (a luminary in the field of humanoid robotics). Sophia had been activated for the first time in October 2015 and was presented to the press and public during the South by Southwest festival held in March 2016 in Austin (Texas, United States).
Equipped with tiny motors and sensors able to move her face as if it were a real person, Sophia is also endowed with a unique artificial intelligence. Thanks to algorithms and various protocols, the humanoid robot of Hanson Robotics is capable of interacting and having conversations with any person, providing correct answers to the questions asked. In short, it is as if you were to interact with Siri, Cortana, or Google Now in the flesh.
The wonders of Sophia’s electronic brain are not limited to this alone. As a human being in flesh, Sophia’s intelligence is constantly “evolving”: its cognitive capabilities and its ability to improve dialogue grow thanks to interaction with other people. Thanks to machine learning algorithms, therefore, the humanoid robot can increase the field of personal knowledge and find new topics to entertain the interlocutor. Thanks to a huge memory, Sophia is able to remember past conversations: thus, it can resume conversations interrupted in the past, or skip topics that have been already discussed.
At first glance, Sophia might take aback. About the latest-generation silicon rubber mask, which gives an incredibly realistic look to the face and facial features of the humanoid robot. The sensors and micro-motors hidden behind this mask allow Hanson Robotics’ creation to emulate over 62 facial expressions: one look, in short, to understand Sophia’s mood and react accordingly.
Similarly, she is able to peer into someone’s and take consequential decisions, thanks to two micro-cameras implanted in her eyes. With the aid of sophisticated artificial intelligence algorithms, they are able to recognize people they are interacting with. But – and this is the fundamental question that moves the issue from technology to ethics and – in the case of the believers, to the idea of Creation – is it capable of understanding the psychological needs of a patient? Concepts such as mercy, love, and acceptance go beyond algorithms; the real risk is that man might forget it.