Like it or not, Artificial intelligence (AI) is now part of our everyday lives.
It’s found in social media algorithms, e-commerce, and more but not everyone is comfortable with it.
Sophia, Grace and Desdemona are humanoid robots, each programmed with very sophisticated AI. Sophia, was first activated in 2016 and gained widespread attention, whereas most AI operates discretely out of sight, Sophia is designed to look like a young woman and has gained cult/ celeb status.
In 2017, Sophia was named the United Nations Development Program’s first Innovation Champion.
She’s the first non-human to be given a UN title she was granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia.
Along with her two siblings, all designed by David Hanson of Hanson Robotics with their AI “brains” engineered by Ben Goertzel, CEO of blockchain-based AI company SingularityNET.
Goertzel told CNN,
AI mostly exists behind the scenes, in the form of algorithms doing various sorts of pattern recognition and cognition that are hard for people to understand. The purpose of these robots was to be an interface with the AI world and the human world.
The face is one of the primary ways humans express emotions and connect with each other. If you have an AI that you can look in the eye and it smiles at you, that gives us a subjective feeling of connection.”
A sense of connection could make these humanoid robots extremely useful in many contexts.
Goertzel and his team have been trialling Grace to support elderly people in the early stages of degenerative brain diseases, such as dementia.
Goertzel says that through these pilots they have seen a
profound and uplifting effect on some very lonely people.”
Dementia can cause problems with short-term memory, and he believes robots could be well suited to responding to sufferers’ repetitive requests.
If you’re dealing with someone who is in the middle stages of dementia, they’re just asking the same thing over and over again. It’s the same thing day after day. The robot will never get bored with it.”
Goertzel say that the robots could also be used for education and in the service industry too.
Earlier this year, Dubai’s Museum of the Future introduced an artificially intelligent robot guide, Ameca, to its Tomorrow Today exhibition.
The robot, built by UK-based robotics company Engineered Arts, can answer simple visitor questions about the museum. Majed Al Mansoori, deputy executive director of the museum says,
This kind of technology has developed in ways that nobody could imagine.
The goal of Ameca is to advocate, to showcase the technology … We’ve had people try to ask it really tough questions – visitors are trying to show how humans are more intelligent than the AI.”
Al Mansoori believes AI-powered robots could find uses in the tourism and air travel industries
and particularly as guides in places which require wayfinding, for instance hospitals, universities, shopping malls.”
As AI has come to subtly permeate our daily lives, research has shown that many people are anxious about its implications on privacy, job losses and human connections.
Researchers argue that AI-driven algorithms that are used to provide recommendations on social media can create an “echo chamber” that re-enforces people’s opinions and polarizes society.
With the technology being used to create sophisticated deepfake videos, others have warned about the potential for malicious disinformation.
Giving people the opportunity to interact with relatable robots could help humanize AI, and go some way to improving its image.
Al Mansoori says,
With the humanoid robots we are seeing being developed now, the voice, the expressions and smiles and gestures, all of that is designed to make you feel more comfortable interacting with the technology.
There is a growing need for human connection as technology progresses. This is one of the reasons that people respond so well to humanoid robots.”
Yes. But we’ve all seen Terminator too. At some point, they WILL just get rid of us, but at the rate we’re going, that might not be such a bad thing.