Sophia the Robot and three other models from Hanson Robotics will go into mass production this year and are expected to begin rolling out of factories in the first half of 2021.
This news comes by way of a new report from Reuters after a tour through Hanson Robotics’ Hong Kong factory conducted by Sophia the Robot, whom you might recognize as the viral robot from years ago that was granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia back in 2017. Hanson Robotics believes now to be a better time than ever to roll out these robots as they can help not only the healthcare sectors of the world, but the retail and airline industries as well.
“Social robots like me can take care of the sick or elderly,” Sophia said during the tour, according to Reuters. “I can help communicate, give therapy and provide social stimulation, even in difficult situations.”
Hanson Robotics founder and chief executive, David Hanson, said the company is planning to sell thousands of robots of many different sizes in 2021, although he didn’t give an exact number as to how many. He did say that four models, including Sophia, will roll out to the public this year.
Reuters noted that according to the International Federation of Robots, worldwide sales of professional-service robots jumped up 32% to $11.2 billion from 2018 to 2019. Those numbers have likely risen during the current COVID-19 pandemic as robots are seen around the world helping in the healthcare sector and Hanson said he believes that in a world of COVID-19, more automation is needed to keep people safe.
One of the robots Hanson Robotics is launching this year, Grace, has been created specifically for the healthcare sector.
“Sophia and Hanson robots are unique by being so human-like,” Hanson said. “That can be so useful during these times where people are terribly lonely and socially isolated.”
That speaks to the larger mission of Hanson Robotics. The company’s “About” page says its, “innovations in AI research and development, robotics engineering, experiential design, storytelling and material science bring robots to life as engaging characters, useful products, and as evolving AI.”
Not that there’s necessarily anything to worry about when a company says its trying to bring robots to life as engaging characters with evolving AI, but just in case, somebody get in touch with Sarah Connor. In the meantime, read about how humans abusing sad robots was the subject of a recent study and then read about this study that found humans want AI robots to look human, but only up to a certain point. Check out our list of the 12 greatest giant robots ever after that.
Wesley LeBlanc is a freelance news writer and guide maker for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @LeBlancWes.