Sophia: a humanoid robot that pushes the reality envelope

September 3, 2015

Prepare to enter extreme uncanny valley. Sophia, a humanoid robot currently under development at Hanson Robotics, is about to push the reality envelope next year, Hanson Robotics consultant Eric Shuss revealed to me today.

With help from [character design experts? better description?] from Disney and Pixar and legendary AI expert Ben Goertzel, Sophia will:

  • Recognize and greet individuals by name and hold conversations — recognizing speech and responding intelligently in natural language, calling on advanced AI algorithms.
  • Simulate many (almost all? several? most? dozens? hundreds? a large number?) of human facial expressions, thanks to the advanced “Frubber” facial material — even flush when embarrassed.
  • Track facial expressions of humans.
  • Eventually, recognize specific human facial emotions and respond in kind.

Hanson Robotics sees Sophia as the ultimate elder-care robot (think Robot and Frank and Humans). But Shuss says she will do a lot more. At the SXSW conference next March, she will participate in a proposed* panel called “The Holy Grail: Machine Learning + Extreme Robotics.”

This will be an interactive conversation on the future of advanced robotics combined with machine learning and cognitive science, moderated by Shuss and also featuring Hanson Robotics founder/ CEO David Hanson and Microsoft executive Jim Kankanias,  who heads Program Management for Information Management and Machine Learning in the Cloud + Enterprise Division at Microsoft.

* Contingent on getting enough votes by end of day Friday, Sept. 4 (cast your vote here — requires registration).