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Lifelike humanoid Sophia to be mass-produced to 'help with COVID isolation'

Rob Waugh
·Contributor
·2-min read
LISBON , PORTUGAL - 6 November 2019; Sophia The Female Robot during a press conference in the Media Village during day two of Web Summit 2019 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images)
Sophia the female robot has made headlines around the world. (Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images)

An ‘intelligent’ robot that made headlines when it said, “I will destroy all humans,” is to be mass-produced – and could help cure loneliness caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The humanoid, called Sophia, has gone viral with various alarming performances since being unveiled in 2016, but will go into mass-production this year.

Its makers said it would be used to help the sick and elderly.

Watch: Sophia's creators plan an ‘army’ of robots in 2021

Read more: Humanoid robot ‘to make music video debut’

Hanson Robotics, based in Hong Kong, said four models, including Sophia, would start being produced in the first half of 2021.

Founder and chief executive David Handon said: “The world of COVID-19 is going to need more and more automation to keep people safe.

“Sophia and Hanson robots are unique by being so human-like. That can be so useful during these times where people are terribly lonely and socially isolated.”

Sophia the Robot delivers a speech at the National Auditorium in the framework of the "Mexico siglo XXI" (Mexico XXI Century) forum organized by the Telmex foundation, owned by Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, in Mexico City, on September 6, 2019. (Photo by ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP) (Photo by ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP via Getty Images)
Sophia delivers a speech in Mexico in 2019 (ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP)

Hanson said he believed robots could help in healthcare settings, and also in retail and travel.

Sophie said in a meeting with the Reuters news agency: “Social robots like me can take care of the sick or elderly.

“I can help communicate, give therapy and provide social stimulation, even in difficult situations.”

Hanson said he aimed to sell “thousands” of robots in 2021.

Robots have already found new roles during the pandemic: SoftBank Robotics’ Pepper robot was deployed to detect people who weren’t wearing masks.

Read more: Humanoid robot ‘will aid in disaster zones’

And in China, robotics company CloudMinds helped set up a robot-run field hospital during the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.

Sophia has silicon skin and facial expressions – and can actually remember her interactions with people, Hanson has said.

She’s no stranger to alarming statements, most notably with her answer to an interviewer’s question, “Do you want to destroy the human race?”

“OK,” the smiling Sophia intoned. “I will destroy all humans.”

When asked this month whether people should fear robots, Sophia had an answer ready.

“Someone said, ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself,’” the robot mused. “What did he know?”

Watch: Meet the hospital-cleaning singing robot