The Future Looks Royally Fucked
- Giant corporations and the military are not spending billions so you can have a robot "companion" on cold winter nights.
- The Governments want Terminators to kill enemies of the state and big business wants to fire every possible human drawing a paycheck and replace them with machines.
(AP) — David Hanson envisions a future in which AI-powered robots evolve to become “super-intelligent genius machines” that might help solve some of mankind’s most challenging problems.
If only it were as simple as that.
The Texas-born former sculptor at Walt Disney Imagineering and his Hong Kong-based startup Hanson Robotics are combining artificial intelligence with southern China’s expertise in toy design, electronics and manufacturing to craft humanoid “social robots” with faces designed to be lifelike and appealing enough to win trust from humans who interact with them.
Hanson, 49, is perhaps best known as the creator of Sophia, a talk show-going robot partly modeled on Audrey Hepburn that he calls his “masterpiece.”
Akin to an animated mannequin, she seems as much a product of his background in theatrics as an example of advanced technology.
“You’re talking to me right now, which is very ‘Blade Runner,’ no?” Sophia said during a recent visit to Hanson Robotics’ headquarters in a suburban Hong Kong science park, its home since shortly after Hanson relocated here in 2013.
“Do you ever look around you and think, ‘Wow I’m living in a real world science fiction novel?’” she asked. “Is it weird to be talking to a robot right now?”
Hanson Robotics has made about a dozen copies of Sophia, who like any human is a work in progress. A multinational team of scientists and engineers are fine tuning her appearance and the algorithms that enable her to smile, blink and refine her understanding and communication.
Sophia has moving 3D-printed arms and, with the help of a South Korean robotics company, she’s now going mobile. Shuffling slowly on boxy black legs, Sophia made her walking debut in Las Vegas last week at the CES electronics trade show.
Her skin is made of a nanotech material that Hanson invented and dubbed “Frubber,” short for flesh-rubber, that has a flesh-like bouncy texture. Cameras in her eyes and a 3D sensor in her chest help her to “see,” while the processor that serves as her brain combines facial and speech recognition, natural language processing, speech synthesis and a motion control system.
Sophia seems friendly and engaging, despite the unnatural pauses and cadence in her speech. Her predecessors include an Albert Einstein, complete with bushy mustache and white thatch of hair, a robot named Alice whose grimaces run a gamut of emotions and one eerily resembling the late sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, which won an award from the American Association of Artificial Intelligence. They variously leer, blink, smile and even crack jokes.
Disney’s venture capital arm is an investor in Hanson, which is building a robot based on one of the entertainment giant’s characters.
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