Sophia, the world-famous Hong Kong-“born” humanoid robot who has become a Saudi Arabian “citizen,” will visit Medellín in July.
The advanced, artificial intelligence-powered robot will speak during an interactive event at Pontificia Bolivariana University while making what will be her debut appearance in South America, according to a local promotion and development agency.
Photo: As part of world tour, Sophia the robot, created by Hanson Robotics, took the stage during the Web Summit 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal, last November. (Photo credit: Stephen McCarthy / Web Summit via Sportsfile)
The event will take place on July 30 at 10:00 am Gran Salón de Plaza Mayor as part of the university’s Summer School program, which runs from July 9 to August 31. This program — focused on developing “science, innovation, and technology for society” — is supported by the Medellín mayor’s office and the Agency for Cooperation and Investment of Medellín (ACI Medellín).
Later in the summer, during the Andicom ICT conference from August 29-31 in Cartagena, Sophia will return to Colombia to feature as one of the event’s keynote speakers.
“CINTEL wants to show the country what artificial intelligence can become and reflect on the challenge that humans have to become digital citizens and not to fall behind accelerating technological development,” said Manuel Martínez Niño, executive director of CINTEL, the organization that hosts Andicom.
“CINTEL quiere mostrarle al país lo que la inteligencia artificial puede llegar a ser, y reflexionar sobre el reto que tiene el ser humano, para convertirse en un ciudadano digital y no quedarse atrás del acelerado desarrollo tecnológico. El reto no es tecnológico, es humano”, dijo Manuel Martínez Niño, Director Ejecutivo.
While she was originally activated on April 19, 2015, Sophia gained global fame over the past year with a worldwide publicity tour that included an address at the United Nations and interviews with Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show, Charlie Rose on 60 Minutes, CNBC, CNET, Tech Insider, and the Jakarta Post. She has even gone on a “date” with Will Smith.
Created by Hanson Robotics, Sophia relies on machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), visual data processing, facial recognition, and other algorithms common in chatbot software to interact with the world. She is able to imitate dozens of human gestures and facial expressions to make her seem more lifelike.
While such advances represent major innovations, some within the industry, including Facebook head of AI research and outspoken critic Yann LeCun, have taken issue with Hanson Robotics founder David Hanson exaggerating Sophia’s abilities. For LeCun, she is more akin to a “puppet” who has no actual understanding of the words she says rather than anything approaching true artificial intelligence.
Nevertheless, Sophia has become the world’s most famous robot and the Medellín event is sure to be fascinating for attendees. Moreover, the appearance of Sophia in Colombia’s second city aligns with the reputation it is trying to build for itself as a technology hub.
Medellín officials have billed the city as a center of innovation, worked tirelessly to attract more tech startups, and partnered with various organizations to foster more programming and development talent. Attracting such a notable “star” will be a headline-grabbing moment that shines even more light on a location that has been gaining more and more attention since being named the world’s most innovative city in 2013 by the Urban Land Institute, the Wall Street Journal, and Citi.
“Sophia is a highly sought-after speaker in business and … an evolving genius machine,” says Hanson Robotics on its website. “Her incredible human likeness, expressiveness, and remarkable story as an awakening robot over time makes her a fascinating front-page technology story.”