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โซเฟีย "หลายพันตัว" ที่จะขายหน่วยหุ่นยนต์เพื่อช่วยผู้คนรับมือกับ COVID-19

Since her unveiling in 2016, Sophia the robot has become something of a celebrity in the global tech arena.

With a face that’s almost completely humanlike (and right smack in the uncanny valley), and armed with a constantly learning and adapting artificial intelligence (A.I.), Sophia’s knack for holding genuine and intelligent conversation with humans has brought her fame and interest just about wherever she’s gone on show.

Sophia the robot meeting former Malaysian prime minister Dr. Mahathir in 2019. IMAGE: MiDEC

Fast forward to 2021, Hanson Robotics – the creators of Sophia – want to produce and sell copies of her en masse.

The Hong Kong-based tech firm said that it hopes to mass-produce at least four models of robots – including Sophia – by the end of 2021, with the aim of rolling them out as soon as the first half of the year.

So far, no specific sales target has been provided.

A great help during the pandemic.

The hope is for these robots to prove useful amid the widespread hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, an objective in line with expert predictions that the pandemic would prove an opportunity for the world’s robotics industry.

“The world of COVID-19 is going to need more and more automation to keep people safe,” said the founder and CEO of Hanson Robotics, David Hanson during a media session in his lab.

While the exact use-cases for Hanson’s robots aren’t yet clear, he implies that robots like Sophia have the potential to do way more than what is typically expected from automated machines.

For example, Sophia was initially created with an A.I. specializing in robot-to-human interaction, and could, in theory, become machine companions for lonely individuals during times of social distancing, helping them stimulate their intellect and providing them an emotional outlet via quick-witted conversation.

IMAGE: Reuters

Hanson even thinks such a skillset can be used in other industries such as retail and travel, as well.

“Sophia and Hanson robots are unique by being so human-like,” he said. “That can be so useful during these times where people are terribly lonely and socially isolated.”

A social robotics professor named Johan Hoorn affirmed such thinking, saying that the current pandemic could actually act as a catalyst for human-robot relationships and fast-track what could possibly be a future norm.

“I can infer the pandemic will actually help us get robots earlier in the market because people start to realize that there is no other way,” he said.

Incidentally, the robotics industry is also seeing other players step up to help combat the pandemic. SoftBank Robotics created a robot to detect whether or not individuals were wearing masks, while a Chinese robotics company helped deploy an automated robot-run field hospital during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan.

Even before the pandemic arrived, the use of robotics was already seeing a healthy hike worldwide, with a report by the International Federation of Robotics revealing that worldwide sales of professional-grade robots had increased by 32 percent between 2018 to 2019.

Getting to know Sophia.

Considering that Sophia could become something seen more frequently in the real world, here are three interesting things to note about her:

1. She’s a global star.​​

IMAGE: Laughing Squid

Sophia has garnered much popularity worldwide. Her milestones include becoming the first robot to achieve citizenship of a nation (Saudi Arabia), becoming the first robot Innovation Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and making multiple appearances on world-famous talkshows including the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and conferences around the world.

2. Relationships are her specialty.

Sophia is backed by A.I. that combines a large number of tools and features – including neural networks, machine perception, conversational natural language processing, and adaptive motor control among others – to help her become extremely adept at holding conversations in an almost human-like manner.

Her technology enables her to recognize human faces, observe emotional expressions, and even understand various hand gestures. And aside from understanding the emotions of others, she also has her own range of thoughts and feelings, all generated through human input.

3. She has a little sister.

Many may not know that Sophia has a smaller, kid-friendly version called Little Sophia. Meant as an education companion for children aged eight and above, Little Sophia has the ability to walk, talk, sing, play games, and tell jokes just like the original.

IMAGE: Hanson Robotics

The main focus for Little Sophia is STEM education, coding, and A.I., and the robot comes with plenty of features meant to help young learners grasp and master concepts in these fields of study.

Click here to find out more about Sophia and Hanson Robotics.

Read more tech stories:

Microsoft files patent for an A.I. chatbot that mimics dead people

Netflix is finally launching a ‘shuffle’ feature perfect for indecisive people

Singapore university develops special aerogel that turns air into drinking water

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Cover image sourced from Newsweek and Reuters.

ที่มา : Mashable

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