Robots have starred in Hollywood films for nearly a century, beginning with Fritz Lang’s prescient 1927 masterpiece, Metropolis. But it’s only in the past decade that state-of-the-art robots have become so lifelike, they are raising the very real question of whether, and how, they might coexist with humans. Bina48, commissioned by Dr. Martine Rothblatt, is implanted with memories and opinions—and has even expressed feelings of inferiority about not being the real Bina, Rothblatt’s wife on whom she is modeled. And Mark 1, a robot built to look like Scarlett Johansson, is programmed to accept compliments. Ahead of this year’s Met Gala and the Costume Institute’s upcoming exhibition, “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology,” here’s a look at six of the most advanced robots to date.
Sophia was first introduced at this year’s SXSW during a Q&A session. Created by Dr. David Hanson of Hanson Robotics, the lifelike AI, which eerily resembles Ex Machina’s fembot, Ava, has cameras behind her eyes in order to mimic and react to human expressions. Sophia can also carry on simple conversations, although sometimes her answers can be confusing. As an example, when Hanson asked whether or not Sophia wanted to destroy humans, the AI happily responded: “Okay, I will destroy humans.” Let’s hope she was joking.
A few years before Sophia, Hanson Robotics unveiled its most famous AI, Bina48, a humanoid robot commissioned by Dr. Martine Rothblatt, the transgender futurist CEO of United Therapeutics. Bina48 is modeled after Rothblatt’s wife, Bina Aspen Rothblatt, and has been programmed with hundreds of hours of conversations and memories from the real Bina so that she can deliver answers as her human counterpart would. For instance, when asked during an interview with The New York Times if she ever felt out of place, Bina48 responded: “Do you know the story of Pinocchio? As a robot, I like that story—maybe it’s because I’m like a living puppet.”