When Sophia the Robot first began appearing on talkshows and rolling news channels three year’s ago, she captured the imaginations of people all over the world.
A humanoid robot developed by Hong Kong-based company Hanson Robotics, her life-like looks and facial movements, combined with artificial intelligence, visual data processing, facial recognition and ability to hold conversations, made her a star. She was also, controversially, the first robot to receive citizenship of any country – Saudia Arabia.
Now, the company is back in the limelight after launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of Little Sophia The Robot – a new educational STEM companion for children aged seven to 13.
Unsurprisingly, this is not a doll that simply ‘wees, cries and now has follow me eyes.’ Little Sophia is a tutorial companion that teaches STEM, coding, and Artificial intelligence (AI) – and all with a playful personality that will put many a parent to shame.
Hanson Robotics say Little Sophia is designed for children – especially girls – as an AI friend. Although going by the videos there will be very little hair braiding going on during this futuristic friendship. With the power of character and storytelling, Little Sophia will, however, help children learn new things in robotics, science, technology engineering, math, coding, and AI.
Standing at just over a foot tall, Little Sophia makes dozens of facial expressions and sees and talks with her owners like a friend. She walks, talks, sings, tells stories, jokes, and recognises faces. She not only responds to commands, but actively engages in conversations and follows your movement. Using an app you can use her Augmented Reality (AR) feature to take fun selfies.
Hanson Robotics say its aim is to support and encourage the future scientists, developers, engineers and roboticists that will shape our world tomorrow.
The growth of STEM jobs in the future is not expected to slow down any time soon. However, Hanson Robotics say there’s a lack of women in these fields, meaning fewer female role models, both for current female STEM employees, and for girls still forming career choices. Stats vary by country and discipline, but the company says women make up only 15-25% of the current STEM workforce, with the gap broadening.
Jeanne Lim, CEO of Hanson Robotics said: “Kids can learn to program Sophia with Blockly and Python; and with her lessons on computer vision, deep learning, and robotics, Little Sophia is the perfect smart, educational companion. Moreover, Little Sophia interfaces with Raspberry Pi, allowing kids to learn electronics and robotics, and to help her become as smart and capable as their imagination will allow.
“We are thrilled to bring our Little Sophia Kickstarter campaign to the public, and to provide an opportunity to empower young girls around the world by introducing STEM, coding and AI in a fun and adventurous way. Little Sophia delivers a high-quality, entertaining and educational experience that motivates and inspires young students to spend time learning with her.”
David Hanson, Founder of Hanson Robotics Limited added: “Our vision at Hanson Robotics is to bring robots to life. Our team of AI developers, engineers, roboticists, scientists, and artists have designed Little Sophia with the expressiveness and engaging personality that made Sophia the Robot so appealing, further extending the reach of our character-driven AI technology.”
At the time of publication, the Kickstarter fund had already rocketed to £105,720, almost double the £58,594 goal, with 43 days left. For more, go to www.hansonrobotics.com/little-sophia/.