The field of mobile robotics where cars can drive around autonomously or drones flying with the help of remote control has grown into popularity quite rapidly. However, from the very beginning when the humble beginnings were laid by Sony, things were not that enthusiastic as today.
The first robot that made into the news was called Qrio back in 2003 while their research labs were set in the early 1990s. Today, there is growing research into making robots work beside humans, talk to them, and even interact socially. This is where Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics comes into the picture. They have made strides with Sophia, their robot that has been in development for quite some time. It was primarily designed
keeping in mind the social interaction capabilities of a robot and showing facial expressions just like humans.
How do these Robots Move Around?
When the Sophia with the “rolling base” was released to the public along with a big article on their website, viewers were amazed by how it could interact with people around it. Back in September of 2019, Sophia was taken to the CAD show. And, before that, it had also participated in many talk shows and programs where hosts had tried to have a conversation with it and let the world know her. She speaks English, answers your questions and also cracks a joke.
She has two types of locomotion capabilities as of now. One is rolling, and the other is walking on two legs. Yes, this is a bipedal humanoid, which means it has and can balance itself and walk upright just like humans. Her rolling base enabled her to achieve greater speeds with up to 1.5 m/s while it could take a leisurely walk with you at a mere 0.3 m/s as well.
Her motor based rolling motion enables her to turn on the spot, do maneuvers just like humans and avoid collisions with other people walking beside her.
How does She Understand the World Around Her?
This is the biggest achievement where neural networks and intelligent AI systems inside her brain enable it to see the world through their eyes and make sense of it. It also listens to the sounds around it and recognizes and learns them. And, that is how she can even reply to your questions.
With that, she can explore the world on her own and through social interactions with others. She constantly learns things with the help of all these inputs. She was fitted with lithium-polonium or LiPo batteries that can run for an hour between charges. Her base is also fitted with Wi-Fi and therefore she can be controlled with a remote controller.
She is designed keeping in mind the perfect balance between aesthetics and stability, maneuverability. She can interact with people naturally even with a whole bunch of facial expressions.
She cannot do a great job of talking constantly or for long periods.
In all, Sophia is a social robot that interacts very much like humans, including facial expressions and humor.