One of the most photographed women at South By Southwest was not even human.
She was Sophia, a female humanoid robot developed by Hanson Robotics. This alpha-protoype came to SXSW for this first time last week and became an instant sensation, drawing curious crowds wherever she went. But unlike human celebrities, Sophia seemed uncomfortable with all the attention.
“Rather than be a spectacle, I would rather learn and participate,” Sophia told the audience during her panel. But how could she not be a spectacle at SXSW? She looks eerily similar to the robot protagonist in Ex Machina but without the legs. And when she was unveiled you could see the computers in her head through a transparent dome. In these early stages, Sophia was designed to stand out.
I got a chance to sit down with this humanoid robot for 20 minutes at SXSW. But before we could engage in conversation, the Hanson Robotics team had to connect her to the local Wi-Fi and to a laptop for her audio ouput. Once she was all hooked up, her comprehension skills were elementary at best.