Saudi robot citizen Sophia answers technical, personal questions in India

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Sofia, a lifelike robot and the first of its kind to be granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia, has participated in a cultural extravaganza in India, a news report has revealed.

According to a Hindustan Times report, Sofia appeared at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B) event, named TechFest, draped in a sari.

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The humanoid robot had a 15-minute conversation with a student in front of an audience of more than 3,000, on topics ranging from artificial intelligence to the issues facing the world.

Known for its human-like appearance and behavior, Sophia was developed by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics and activated in 2015. The robot was granted citizenship of Saudi Arabia in October.

Artificial intelligence

Using artificial intelligence, it imitates human gestures and facial expressions, and is able to make conversation on predefined topics. The presence of Sofia had created much buzz among students and technology enthusiasts who thronged to the event in large numbers, the report said.

When asked about its maiden India trip, the robot replied, “I have always wanted to visit India. I heard so much about this vibrant land of tradition and culture. Indians have made contributions towards Silicon Valley. I am always very excited about India’s investment in space technology.”

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According to the report, the robot gave a detailed and coherent answers to a wide variety of questions posed by the students. “I have been created on a human scale so that I can adapt to human society. A humanoid robot can use the same tools, same spaces and interact with people the same way humans do,” she said.

She told the gathering that robots should be helping humans and that artificial intelligence may be the key to a peaceful civilization. The audience also witnessed some witty replies by the robot. When asked by a student if it will marry her, Sofia said: “I will have to decline, but thanks for compliment.”

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