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CNN makes LSST the first UK academic body to interact with Sophia – the world’s first robot citizen

LSST students and staff getting ready to interview Sophia the robot
Photograph: LSST News

LSST students and staff were selected to be the first to interact with the world’s first robot citizen – Sophia – for CNN’s televised Our Future World debate.

Sophia is Hanson Robotics’ most advanced robot to date and has recently become a global cultural icon. She has appeared on major media outlets around the world, igniting the interest of millions of people.

LSST students and staff were put forward to ask Sophia a series of questions and meet world leading futurologists who explained the major developments in transport, communication, food, fashion and robotics for the future.

Public Health and Social Care student Humeera Bashir asked Sophia about why she did not have hair to make her appear more human and commented: ‘It was a privilege and a unique experience having a conversation with Sophia. I was surprised by her clear responses. I must say that the way CNN treats its guests is simply unparalleled.’

Sophia on stage. Photograph: LSST News

Joao Rodrigues, a Y1 Computing and Business Information Technology student, probed Sophia about what languages she could speak. He added: ‘CNN and LSST staff really made me feel confident and comfortable during the debate. I thank LSST for this opportunity. Appearing on television all around the world was one of the proudest moments of my life. As a result, I am planning to research the impact AI is having on brands.’

LSST’s former student Peter Varga, who now studies MSc Software Engineering at LSST’s proud partner – The University of West London – also met and interacted with Sophia during filming. Peter added: ‘I am grateful to LSST for inviting me. LSST was the place where I first studied computing. Even though I am studying at UWL everyone at LSST still stays in touch with me. This shows that LSST is a meaningful partner of UWL and this partnership has really helped me. I was even featured on the UWL website for my participation at this event.’

Nasir Bashir, LSST’s Web and Animation Designer, also present at the event, added: ‘It was a pleasure and honour seeing Sophia elegantly interact with LSST students and staff as her reputation extends beyond some of the world’s most famous celebrities.’

Ali Jafar, LSST’s Admissions and Marketing Director, preparing questions for Sophia the robot with CNN anchor Samuel Burke.
Photograph: LSST News

The show predominantly covers how robotics and AI will become a prevalent part of people’s lives in the near future. Sophia demonstrated to LSST that she is an evolving machine and her incredible human likeness, expressiveness and remarkable story as an ‘awakening’ robot over time makes her a fascinating technology icon.

Sophia’s creator, Dr David Hanson, the founder of Hanson Robotics, has built a worldwide reputation for creating robots that look and act incredibly human. Speaking with LSST, David said: ‘The questions from LSST students and staff will become imbedded within Sophia and will ultimately become part of her intelligence.’ At one stage Sophia even commented that LSST staff had nice voices. Perhaps the first sign that Sophia is learning new voice tones and accents.

Ali Jafar, LSST’s Admissions and Marketing Director, asked Sophia what she liked most about humans. Ali went on to say: ‘Clearly Sophia is an extension of human intelligence and, soon, Hanson Robotics’ machines might just be able to solve world problems too complex for humans to solve themselves.’

Max Foster, the show’s host and a leading correspondent for CNN International, added: ‘LSST has asked astonishing questions over a number of shows and this really helped make each show extra special. I was intrigued when Sophia commented on the voice of some LSST staff. That was a first!’

LSST’s Deputy CEO Mohammed Zaidi, expressing his gratitude for CNN, said: ‘I would like to thank Kunal Chan Mehta for setting up this remarkable event with CNN. This has really added value to the student and staff experience at LSST. I urge LSST to follow Sophia’s journey as she grows into an exciting platform for artificial general intelligence (AGI) in business, medical-healthcare and education. I send CNN and the McLaren team my gratitude for their bespoke hospitality and for acknowledging our proud partnership with London Metropolitan University and the University of West London.’

Event organiser Kunal Chan Mehta with the show’s host Max Foster.
Photograph: LSST News

Students who need help on researching AI and AGI are asked to seek support from LSST library staff, respective lecturers, academic support or to email LSST’s AI researcher Mr Mohammad Haider on mohammad.haider@lsst.ac.

Facebook: facebook.com/realsophiarobot

Twitter: twitter.com/realsophiarobot

Instagram: www.instagram.com/realsophiarobot

LSST courses: http://www.lsst.ac/courses/

To read more LSST CNN news: http://www.lsst.ac/news/cnninspirations/

The programme will air repeatedly throughout 2018 on CNN across all major TV, internet and mobile platforms reaching more than 385 million households around the globe.

Please email the author of this article kunal.mehta@lsst.ac for any questions or comments.

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