HONG KONG — It was seemingly just another ordinary business day in the Wan Chai district. But if you looked closely, you would probably notice the huge flow of purposeful people headed towards the same direction. They were attendees of this year’s RISE conference, held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The notoriously hot and humid Hong Kong summer was all but suffocating. It didn’t help that a typhoon was forecast to pass by the area soon.
None of that affected Sophia, a scheduled speaker among the tens of thousands of attendees. Sophia is a robot who is less sensitive to temperature and humidity than her human counterparts. Plus, Sophia didn’t have to walk all the way to the venue in the scorching heat like most of us did. Speaking of which, her owners had — in fact — intentionally opted not to bring her legs that day.
At the designated Center Stage of the conference hall, Sophia was left alone on stage while the frenetic audience snapped away with their smartphone cameras. Was the Hanson Robotics team hurriedly setting her up behind the scenes? My guess would be affirmative.
Moments later, joining Sophia onstage were Dr. David Hanson and Dr. Ben Goertzel from Hanson Robotics. A former Walt Disney Imagineering designer, Hanson is the founder and CEO of Hanson Robotics. He is also the lead designer and inventor of key technologies including facial expressions and A.I. software. Goertzel is Hanson Robotics’ chief scientist and OpenCOG A.I. platform’s lead architect. He is also a recognized thought leader in artificial general intelligence (AGI).
The duo went on to talk about Sophia’s multiple human-like intelligences:
1. Verbal Intelligence
Sophia appeared to handle direct, information-based “what” type of questions exceptionally well. When Goertzel asked her “what is intelligence” followed by “what is knowledge,” she passed with flying colors. It’s the conversational type of questions that took Sophia a bit longer to handle. That being said, when giving responses, Sophia’s head movements and facial expressions were always quite spot on.
During the demonstration, Sophia was able to not only turn her head and eyes towards the direction requested, but also tell which way it was — left or right — in relation to herself. This is something that a good amount of young children have yet to master in the human world.
3. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
As Goertzel said, logical-mathematical intelligence is an aspect which computers have always been good at. Therefore it came as no surprise that Sophia aced her math tests onstage.
4. Musical Intelligence
Singing embodies emotion, movement, expression, gesture, and so forth. And human speech is actually a form of singing. Therefore, by making Sophia sing, it makes her more human-like in more ways than one in the process.
At the presentation, Sophia performed “All is Made of Love” for the audience — the same song she sang at Clockenflap 2016.
5. Naturalist Intelligence
According to Goertzel, Sophia has yet to be out in the wild per se. But the team has been doing extensive A.I. work in agriculture and other fields behind the scenes.
6. Existential Intelligence
Due to time constraints, Hanson and Goertzel were only able to demonstrate a trimmed version of how Sophia help people meditate. We would love to do some more research on this to learn more.
7. Interpersonal Intelligence
Facial emotion recognition plays a large part in interpersonal intelligence, and is a heavy focus for Hanson Robotics. As humans, we tend to mimic others’ expressions as we speak to them. If robots possessed similar skills, it would help them understand the human bond better.
8. Spatial Intelligence
Did you know that robots can “dream,” too? Hanson Robotics showed us a video of Sophia’s dream, which was made by neural nets basing upon all of the images from her multiple cameras.
9. Emergent, Synergetic Intelligence
This essentially has something to do with how “we are more than the sum of our parts.” The company said that they were hoping to make the world better, through working towards a global emergent brain.
10. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence
As Hanson explained how kinesthetic intelligence worked, Sophia was making timely facial movements while looking directly at him. It was pretty cute.
Even though we only got to see Sophia’s upper body at this conference, Hanson and Goertzel told us that she actually had 3 pairs of legs for her to explore the world in a more human-like way, kinesthetically speaking.
World Cup “Prediction”
Both prior to and after the conference, the Silicon Valley Times team has always been thoroughly impressed by Sophia’s natural language processing (NLP) capabilities. They are nothing like what we have witnessed in most consumer robots these days.
Earlier at a press conference hosted by the same speakers, one journalist asked Sophia who was going to win the World Cup Final. After experiencing a slight pause from Sophia’s end, he went on to clarify, “England or France?”
To which Sophia replied, “France.”
It’s not exactly clear as to what the logic behind that particular utterance was. Having said that, at this point we already know she’s right about England not winning. Now how will her seemingly random “guess” turn out? That’s a story for another time — very, very soon. In fact, the game would probably be live as we speak. ∎
(Update July 16, 2018: France did win.)