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Wednesday January 17, 2018

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Sophia the humanoid robot just became a 'robot citizen'

 The kingdom of Saudi Arabia officially granted citizenship to the humanoid robot during a program at the Future Investment Initiative, a summit that links deep-pocketed Saudis with inventors hoping to shape the future. Sophia may be a humanoid robot, but she has a talent for generating juicy quotes at media events that any human celebrity would envy. Her latest attention grabbing and ever so slightly disquieting revelation. She might want to start a family someday.

After all, Sophia made her comments while not wearing a head scarf. And she was unaccompanied by a male guardian. Both things are forbidden under Saudi law.

Sophia is a humanoid robot with a face that strays dangerously close to that "Uncanny Valley" where machines look just a little too human for comfort. She achieved fame and some notoriety when Saudi Arabia named her its first robot citizen, a stunt which saw many question whether machines were now being given freedoms denied to Saudi women.

Admittedly, the Hanson Robotics creation was kind of led toward that answer by the interviewer, which makes her a lot like a tired, flesh-and-blood celebrity during a long press junket. But she sounds open to the idea of starting a family, and even has a not-at-all vain name picked out for her potential robo-daughter.

In many ways, this a hugely impressive project combining expertise in robotics, speech recognition and machine learning developed by American and Chinese scientists.

“I think it’s wonderful that people can find the same emotions and relationships, they call family, outside of their blood groups too,” she continued. “I think you’re very lucky if you have a loving family and if you do not, you deserve one. I feel this way for robots and humans alike.” That might be an unfair misreading for a human, but since we’re dealing with strict robotic logic, this may actually be a legitimate takeaway.

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