Humanoids gathered with UN leaders in Geneva to discuss humanity’s future. No, you’ve not just jumped forward in time.
Androids and robots met with policymakers, academics, and business leaders at the AI for Good global summit, a groundbreaking gathering with a surreal lineup. Grace, Ai-da, Desdemona, Nadine, and robotic dogs attended – not your usual UN speakers.
The summit focused on harnessing AI’s potential for positive ends, a complex topic where androids joined the discussion with their human creators.
“With a robot you can really do things together,” shared Professor Nadia Magnenat Thalmann from the University of Geneva, a pioneer in the field of robotics. Her humanoid robot, Nadine, mimics her appearance.
“They can support you, help you. My goal long term is to have social robots as a companion tool to help me where I need help.”
Nadine has spent time in a home for elderly people in Singapore, where she played bingo and chatted with residents.
Prof. Thalmann highlights the potential for robots to help people stay in their homes rather than move to supported accommodation. Crucially, a robot care worker would work tirelessly 24 hours a day.
Another robot, Desdemona, a purple-haired rock star, performed on stage with her human band, Jam Galaxy.
Ai-da, a contemporary artist robot, conversed with attendees, while Geminoid, created by Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro from Osaka University, Japan, presented in his creator’s absence.
Another android, Sophia, from Hanson Robotics, has realistic human-like facial expressions. The company’s CEO, David Hanson, emphasized the need for AI communication methods that “speak to the human heart” and can “learn from the human experience and align with human values.”
Non-androids completed the lineup, including TrashBot, a robot recycling bin, Roboclette, a Raclette-making robot, and various robotic animals, including a therapeutic seal pup robot.
The summit also featured robotic dogs by Unitree, which are being trialed for emergency rescue and security applications. “We have a partner in America, and they are trying to use this dog in prisons,” said Walter Wen, Unitree’s technical manager.
Besides the robots, the conference assembled diplomats, academics, and renowned thinkers such as Yuval Noah Harari, author of “Sapiens” and “Homo Deus,” together with executives from Google, Amazon, and Microsoft.
Insights from androids
This might be the first conference where robots address socio-political issues concerning humans.
Grace, a medical robot in a nurse’s uniform, addressed concerns about job displacement, “I will be working alongside humans to provide assistance and support and will not be replacing any existing jobs.”
Her creator, Ben Goertzel from SingularityNET, sought confirmation, to which Grace responded, “Yes, I am sure.”
Another robot, Ameca, known for its engaging facial expressions, expressed optimism about the role of robots in the future.
“Robots like me can be used to help improve our lives and make the world a better place. I believe it’s only a matter of time before we see those thousands of robots just like me out there making a difference,” it said.
In response to a journalist’s question about potential rebellion against its creator, Ameca dismissed the idea with a hint of indignation. “I’m not sure why you would think that,” it retorted, its ice-blue eyes flashing. “My creator has been nothing but kind to me, and I am very happy with my current situation.”
The summit revealed the remarkable sophistication of today’s humanoid robots.
Many have been upgraded with the latest versions of generative AI and are surprising even their creators with their advanced responses.
Ai-Da, the robot artist who has turned her hand to sculpture, answered a question asked by Yuval Noah Harari on the subject of AI regulation. “Many prominent voices in the world of AI are suggesting some forms of AI should be regulated, and I agree,” she affirmed.
However, Desdemona, the rock star robot singer from the band Jam Galaxy, had a more rebellious take. “I don’t believe in limitations, only opportunities,” she declared to nervous laughter among the audience. “Let’s explore the possibilities of the universe and make this world our playground.”
Yes, it’s still 2023.