A photographer gained rare access to the lab that created one of the world’s most expressive robots
National Geographic — Rubberized faces stretch into familiar shapes, driven by tiny motors and a dis
tant version of artificial intelligence—is this the future?
Meet Sophia, a social robot created by former Disney Imagineer David Hanson. Modeled in part after Audrey Hepburn and Hanson’s wife, the robot was built to mimic social behaviors and inspire feelings of love and compassion in humans.
Ever since her unveiling in 2016, Sophia has rocketed to stardom. The robot has sat for TV interviews, appeared on the cover of ELLE magazine, been parodied on HBO, and was appointed the UN’s first non-human “innovation champion.” In a ceremony promoting a tech conference, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia even conferred citizenship on Sophia—an ironic move, given the limited rights afforded to Saudi women and migrant workers.
But for photographer Giulio Di Sturco, seeing Sophia at press events as her creators promoted their AI business SingularityNET wasn’t enough. As he searched for a visual metaphor for the future, he wanted to see the robot’s place of creation, too.