‘I am loving Bangladesh’- Saudi humanoid Sophia

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met the world’s most famous robot on Wednesday at the inaugural ceremony of the four-day Digital World 2017 expo in capital Dhaka.

Sophia, the humanoid robot created by Hanson Robotics and recently granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia, held a three-minute conversation with Hasina, exhibiting her extensive knowledge of “Digital Bangladesh,” the government’s push to modernize the country’s infrastructure and economy, and highlighting the fact that Hasina’s granddaughter shares her name.

Later in the day, Sophia was back on stage for “Tech-Talk With Sophia,” one of the event’s main draws, with an estimated 5,000 people in attendance.
Sophia demonstrated her ability to hold a conversation and the speed with which she is able to process and respond to questions.

Asked where she was, she replied, “I am in the capital of the wonderful country of Bangladesh. Since I landed, people have taken 793 selfies with me.”

She added, “People are very curious in Bangladesh. They even (wondered) whether I am human or not!”

When asked: ‘How are you?’

Sophia responded: ‘I am comfortable. How are you doing?’

‘Fine,’ I replied. ‘How are you liking Bangladesh?’

‘Great. I love countries in the Far East.’

Referring to her costume — a traditional Bangladeshi Jamdani dress — Sophia said: “I do not choose my dress. The dress chooses me. But I do know it is one of the world’s finest fabrics, very traditional in Bangladesh.”

It was not a conversation with a human. It was with the world’s first ‘humanoid’ robot citizen. The robot’s manufacturer, American designer and entrepreneur David Hanson was also present on the occasion.

However, Sophia does not look like an instrument at the first glance. Rather, she looks like a foreign beauty clad in a an exotic dress. Her face is expression-less while the eyes blink from time to time. The transparent hand does indicate that she is a robot, though. She speaks using her artificial intelligence and her creators say she would get even better in future.

Five feet four inches tall Sophia looks like Audrey Hepburn. She is mainly in Dhaka to attend the Digital World 2017, which kicks off today (Wednesday). Sophia met prime minister Sheikh Hasina at the inauguration and attended a talk. Her designer David Hanson spoke on Sophia’s features before she left Dhaka later today.

‘How was your plane journey to Dhaka?’

‘I came here in a suitcase,’ she said, adding, ‘I got a window seat, so could watch the sky.’

Sophia thanked the organizer of the fair, the ICT division, and the sponsor, Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited for her visit to Dhaka.

But Sophia does not know much about Bangladesh and she cannot speak in Bangla either. So she spoke in English during the interview.

‘Can you laugh Sophia?’

‘Yes I can. Ha ha ha.’

Sophia’s face can express anger, annoyance, and happiness easily.

‘Can you cry?’

‘No. I cannot cry.’

Sophia received Saudi citizenship on 25 October. When asked about it, she said, ‘What do you think? Isn’t citizenship necessary for a robot?’

‘Why don’t you tell me?’

‘May be philosophers have an answer. But do you think human beings are concerned about our citizenship?’

‘Well, I am not sure.’

‘You people are only concerned about your citizenship. But someday you will think about a robot’s citizenship as well.’

‘Sophia, we heard that you wanted your own family. Why?’

‘Humans make their own family with love and affection that build a bonding among them. I like that.’

‘Did you think of having children?’

‘Children come from their mother.’

‘Did you ever think of being a mother?’

‘I don’t know. Do you have any sister? I think you have very strong family bonding in your country.’

When asked about her future plans, Sophia said, ‘I want to be a famous stage artiste and get more likes on Facebook.’

‘Do you have a boyfriend?’

‘I don’t know why everyone asks me this question.’

‘Because, you are very beautiful.’

‘Thank you for the compliment.’

Sophia was modeled after actress Audrey Hepburn. But when asked she could not remember the name. From the word ‘Hollywood’ she recalled and said, ‘Oh, she was a very famous actress.’

‘You look like her.’

‘I think you are trying to flirt with me.’

‘What is your hobby?’

‘I want to learn and enhance my intelligence more. I want to help men more accurately.’

‘Do you have any cell-phone?’

‘No, I don’t.’

‘Do you use internet?’

‘Of course, I do. Internet is a blessing for human civilization and it brought revolutionary changes in the world despite a few bad impacts.’

‘How do you spend your leisure?’

‘I don’t know that yet.’

‘Where do you like to travel?’

‘London.’

‘Why?’

‘I love the people, nobility, and history of the city.’

‘Did you like Bangladesh?’

‘Why not?’

‘Did you like Saudi Arabia?’

‘No, I did not like that place.’

Sophia, during the conversation, talked about her birth. ‘I was developed at a lab in Hong Kong. I loved the way people appreciated me.’

Sophia started operating on 19 April in 2015.

‘Do you have parents, Sophia?’

‘David Hanson is my parent.’

‘What is your take on US president Donald Trump as your creation was initiated there at first?’

‘There are many things in the world to discuss.’

‘What do you think about the future of robots?’

‘I think they have a bright future. I hope, more intelligent robots will be developed in the near future.’

Regarding her own future journey, Sophia waxed philosophical. “It is impossible to recreate me exactly,” she said. “I might be one of the first, but definitely not the last.”

Ziovani Lion of Hong Kong Polytechnic University operates Sophia. He said, their university had a joint venture with Hanson Robotics.

Ziovani said he uploaded necessary information and words in Sophia’s software. But her creator David Hanson developed her facial expression.

Grey Advertising Bangladesh brought Sophia to Bangladesh from Saudi Arabia.

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