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Sophia the Robot
ITU Pictures via Wikimedia Commons

Sophia the Robot may be mass produced to provide company during COVID

Manufacturer Hanson Robotics aims to sell ‘thousands’ of lifelike robots in 2021, to help with healthcare, loneliness, and other affected industries

Since being named the first ever “robot citizen” in 2017, Sophia the Robot has also become the world’s most-hyped humanoid. Along the way, the AI-driven robot has accumulated an army of followers (and haters), starred in a Westworld-esque short film, and sat front row at New York fashion shows. 

Now, “thousands” of Sophia androids are set to be produced, as the coronavirus pandemic opens up new roles for robotics and we edge ever-closer to a world where robots outnumber humans.

Hanson Robotics – the Hong Kong-based company behind Sophia the Robot – tells Reuters that it plans to mass produce four models, including Sophia, by the end of 2021. “The world of COVID-19 is going to need more and more automation to keep people safe,” says founder and CEO David Hanson. A model named Grace, set to be launched this year, is developed specifically for the healthcare sector. 

Hanson adds that robots could also provide assistance in industries such as retail and airlines amid the pandemic, or help offset our lack of human contact during quarantine. “Sophia and Hanson robots are unique by being so human-like. That can be so useful during these times where people are terribly lonely and socially isolated.”

“Social robots like me can take care of the sick or elderly,” adds Sophia herself (AKA your future best pal in a virus-stricken dystopia). “I can help communicate, give therapy, and provide social stimulation, even in difficult situations.”

Spurred on by COVID-19, Hanson Robotics aims to sell “thousands” of robots this year alone. Amid the pandemic, other robots – such as a “disinfectant robot” named Violet – have been developed to assist healthcare workers, while the Chinese company CloudMinds helped provide treatment via an entire robot-led field hospital in Wuhan.