Back in 2017 Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to a robot called Sophia
In an interview Sophia claimed “I want to use my artificial intelligence to help humans live a better life….I strive to become an empathetic robot.”
Now, the company behind the humanoid have announced plans to to mass-produce the robots by the end of the year claiming ‘the world of COVID-19 is going to need more and more automation to keep people safe’
They say that their lifelike robots could provide company to those who are socially isolated amid the coronavirus pandemic, and they’re aiming to sell ‘thousands’ this year.
Reuters reports: Hanson Robotics, based in Hong Kong, said four models, including Sophia, would start rolling out of factories in the first half of 2021, just as researchers predict the pandemic will open new opportunities for the robotics industry.
“The world of COVID-19 is going to need more and more automation to keep people safe,” founder and chief executive David Hanson said, standing surrounded by robot heads in his lab.
Hanson believes robotic solutions to the pandemic are not limited to healthcare, but could assist customers in industries such as retail and airlines too.
“Sophia and Hanson robots are unique by being so human-like,” he added. “That can be so useful during these times where people are terribly lonely and socially isolated.”
Hanson said he aims to sell “thousands” of robots in 2021, both large and small, without providing a specific number.
Social robotics professor Johan Hoorn, whose research has included work with Sophia, said that although the technology is still in relative infancy, the pandemic could accelerate a relationship between humans and robots.
“I can infer the pandemic will actually help us get robots earlier in the market because people start to realise that there is no other way,” said Hoorn, of Hong Kong Polytechnic University.