“Social robots like me can take care of the sick or elderly,” Sophia says as she conducts a tour of her lab in Hong Kong.
“I can help communicate, give therapy, and provide social stimulation, even in difficult situations.”
Since being unveiled in 2016, Sophia – a humanoid robotic – has gone viral. Now the corporate behind her has a brand new imaginative and prescient: to mass-produce robots by the tip of the yr.
Hanson Robotics, primarily based in Hong Kong, mentioned 4 fashions, together with Sophia, would begin rolling out of factories within the first half of 2021, simply as researchers predict the pandemic will open new alternatives for the robotics business.
“The world of Covid-19 is going to need more and more automation to keep people safe,” founder and chief government David Hanson mentioned, standing surrounded by robotic heads in his lab.
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Hanson believes robotic options to the pandemic will not be restricted to healthcare however might help clients in industries reminiscent of retail and airways too.
“Sophia and Hanson robots are unique by being so human-like,” he added. “That can be so useful during these times where people are terribly lonely and socially isolated.”
Hanson mentioned he goals to promote “thousands” of robots in 2021, each massive and small, with out offering a selected quantity.
Social robotics professor Johan Hoorn, whose analysis has included work with Sophia, mentioned that though the know-how remains to be in relative infancy, the pandemic might speed up a relationship between people and robots.
“I can infer the pandemic will actually help us get robots earlier in the market because people start to realise that there is no other way,” mentioned Hoorn, of Hong Kong Polytechnic College.
Hanson Robotics is launching a robotic this yr known as Grace, developed for the healthcare sector.
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Merchandise from different large gamers within the business are serving to battle the pandemic as properly. SoftBank Robotics’ Pepper robotic was deployed to detect individuals who weren’t sporting masks. In China, robotics firm CloudMinds helped arrange a robot-run discipline hospital through the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.
Using robots was on the rise earlier than the pandemic. In keeping with a report by the Worldwide Federation of Robotics, worldwide gross sales of professional-service robots had already jumped 32% to $11.2 billion between 2018 and 2019.
Some people could be cautious of placing robots in such delicate roles. When requested whether or not individuals ought to worry robots, Sophia had a solution prepared.
“Someone said ‘we have nothing to fear but fear itself’,” the robotic mused. “What did he know?”