Some of the world’s leading human and robot minds are heading to the United Nations.
At a UN summit in Geneva next week, tech luminaries ranging from futurist Ray Kurzweil to DeepMind COO Lila Ibrahim will discuss AI for good. It’s a stellar lineup of speakers, but the real stars in our eyes are the robots.
Over 50 of the beasts — the majority from Europe — will be in attendance. All of them merit places in your dreams and nightmares, but we’ve narrowed the roster down to a list of our 10 favourites.
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Sophia is arguably the planet’s most famous real-world robot — but it’s attracted controversy. Saudia Arabia notoriously granted citizenship to the android in 2017, giving it more rights than millions of humans in the country.
Meta’s chief AI scientist, Yann LeCun, has described Sophia as “complete bullshit” and slated the media for promoting the “Potemkin AI.” Nonetheless, the humanoid’s influence and fame earn it a place on our list. Sorry, Yann.
The system integrates both AI and AB (artificial body) within a human form and robotic visage. Ameca’s creators claim it’s the world’s most advanced human-shaped robot.
Unless you’ve been hiding from the AI apocalypse under a rock, you’ll recognise Spot. The star attraction of the esteemed Boston Dynamics brand, the quadruped is primarily used for dangerous inspection jobs.
Despite the cute name and resemblance to a dog, Spot’s a menacing creature. Campaigners have warned that the bot could be weaponised — particularly after it was tested by the French Army.
Perhaps the creepiest member of our list, Geminoid is a robotic copy of its creator, Hiroshi Ishiguro.
Geminoid reproduces the voice and head movements of Ishiguro, who added hair from his own scalp to his android twin. According to Ishiguro, the robot was designed to study what it means to be human.
A legend in its field, Nao has been wowing observers for almost 20 years. The bipedal has attracted headlines for its synchronised dances, stand-up comedy, and soccer skills, but biggest impact is in education and research.
The device was developed by Aldebaran Robotics in France, which was acquired by SoftBank in 2015 and rebranded as SoftBank Robotics.
Touted as the “world’s first robot artist,” Ai-Da draws and paints using robotic arms, cameras in its eyes, and algorithms guiding its movements.
The android is something of a celebrity in its home country of the UK, becoming the first robot to speak in the House of Lords. Unfortunately, the
publicity stunt feat lost some lustre when Ai-Da appeared to fall asleep and had to be rebooted.
A social robot, Furhat communicates with us humans as we do with each other: by speaking, listening, showing emotions, and maintaining eye contact.
We’re particularly impressed by the system’s adaptability. Furhat’s ethnicity, gender, and language can all be modified to create lifelike, expressive characters for numerous purposes. In the image above, for instance, the droid appears to be a resurrected Silvio Berlusconi.
Everyone loves a world-first, especially when it’s vital to humanity. That’s why we’re bewitched by Roboclette — the first machine capable of scraping melted cheese.
The system blends the expertise of cheesemaker Eddy Baillifard with robotic wizardry from the Idiap Research Institute to carve Swiss raclettes.
Another graduate of Aldebaran, Pepper is a semi-humanoid that’s designed to read emotions.
The droid’s remarkable life spanned work in a grocery store, a stint as a Buddhist priest, and a speech in the British Parliament. Sadly, the good times couldn’t last forever. In 2021, production of Pepper was halted due to weak demand.
10. Paro Seal
Paro won a spot in our top 10 after pipping the Therabot puppy to the title of cutest automaton at the UN.
If you want to meet Paro or any other robots attending the summit, you can register for a ticket here.