Culture

Sophia the Talking Robot Goes Into Journalism

(AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

In recent years, robots have started clank-clank-clanking their way into the food industry and I’m all for it. Even before the pandemic, I was glad to see such social-distancing innovations as pizza-delivery bots and automated burger-flippers. The fewer repulsive, disease-ridden humans stand between me and my next meal, the better. For most of us, swiping our own groceries over a supermarket scanner is no more vexing than pumping our own gas. (When we can find gas, of course.) As the food industry becomes increasingly automated, one day you’ll be able to enjoy a delicious meal with no human interaction whatsoever. It’s a plus for germaphobes and business owners alike, because a robot doesn’t #FightFor15. A robot never needs to take a vacation or a smoke break. A robot has no boogers to pick (yet). A robot doesn’t require food or rest or anything else that will distract it from serving its human masters. A robot is the perfect employee.

(Tom Cruise is also using robots to patrol his film set for COVID-19 violations, which is awesome and scary for a whole bunch of other reasons.)

And that’s just the beginning. Now robots are moving into yet another profession that’s full of people without the necessary skills to do something better with their lives: journalism.

Take it away, Sophia the Talking Robot!

Apparently this is an actual thing that’s happening in real life. La Vanguardia (Barcelona), courtesy of Google Translate:

The Madrid elections are not only a challenge for Isabel Díaz Ayuso, Ángel Gabilondo, Pablo Iglesias and the rest of the candidates for the Presidency of the Community. The 4M also tests the technological innovation applied to an electoral day. It will do so through an android designed to interact with human beings through voice and gestures called Sophia, which will be put for the first time in an electoral process in Spain at the service of more than 160 accredited journalists to follow the results from the Data Center of Pavilion 14 of Ifema.

Sophia is the brainchild of Hanson Robotics, a Hong Kong-based robotics engineering company founded by American David Hanson. Its function will be to offer in real time the main data, magnitudes and news that occur during the day. It will also answer questions on predefined topics, in this case the Madrid 2021 Assembly elections…

During election day you will be able to access data on participation progress at the municipal level in order to be able to answer the questions posed by the media. Sophia will also provide information on health protection measures, postal voting, accessible voting and on the resources available on mobile applications or on the web.

Good work, Hanson Robotics. Way to latch onto the one profession that’s even less popular than “talking robot.”

I haven’t been able to find video of this robot doing whatever the hell this is supposed to be, but here it is on a “date” with rapper and robot-fighter Will Smith:

That was three years ago, so maybe since then they’ve taught that thing how to recognize sarcasm, and that it should search online for a prospective suitor’s net worth before turning down a kiss. But if a robot is this adept at comedy, how tough can journalism be? It requires skill to make people laugh, but pretty much anybody can say things that aren’t true.

Journalists had better hope robots don’t take over their profession, because those things don’t need sleep or paychecks and they’re almost as easy to program.

That is, if robots haven’t already infiltrated the industry. Come to think of it… has anybody ever actually seen Wolf Blitzer walk through a metal detector?