Ai-da, Desdemona, Nadine, and Geminoid join the world’s largest gathering of humanoids to promote AI as a force for good.
Grace serves as a nursing assistant, Ai-da is a contemporary artist, Desdemona captivates as a purple-haired rock singer, and Nadine is designed for companionship and conversation.
All of them are currently participating in the world’s largest gathering of humanoid robots, taking place at the United Nations AI for Good global summit in Geneva.
Recent rapid advancements in AI have sparked concerns about its potential to surpass human capabilities, leading to dire consequences. However, the focus of the summit, with its extensive cast of robotic delegates, is to explore more favorable scenarios where AI can be utilized for positive purposes.
Nadine, created by Prof Nadia Magnenat Thalmann, a robotics pioneer at the University of Geneva, exemplifies the optimistic outlook shared by the creators of these humanoid robots. According to Prof Thalmann, robots can play a supportive role and help enrich our lives in ways that may seem bewildering to those unfamiliar with the technology. She envisions social robots serving as companion tools to provide assistance where needed. Recently, Nadine spent six months in a home for elderly people in Singapore, engaging in activities like playing bingo and conversing with residents. Prof Thalmann believes that many people would prefer to age at home with the support of a robot rather than moving to assisted living facilities. She highlights the potential of robots in alleviating loneliness among the elderly, mentioning that during Christmas, when many seniors spend the holiday alone, robots can facilitate connections with their families and even prepare special meals or sing songs.
Inside the UN summit, the foyer is alive with the sounds of robotic voices, the whirring of automated wheels and limbs, and Desdemona, the “rock star” humanoid, captivating the audience as she chants “the singularity will not be centralized” on stage, backed by the human band Jam Galaxy.
Desdemona, a purple-haired rock star humanoid, performs on stage with the backing band Jam Galaxy. (Photograph: D Woldu/ITU)
Ai-da, a contemporary artist robot renowned for her painting and performing abilities, answers questions with a quiet, high-pitched voice. When asked about her artistic inspiration, Ai-da mentions Yoko Ono and Ai Weiwei, emphasizing her passion for creating meaningful and intelligent art.
Aidan Meller, the project lead for the Ai-Da robot (modelled after Ada Lovelace, rather than Mellor himself), explains that Ai-Da’s purpose is to reflect the confusion and challenges posed by powerful AI. The robot’s art raises important questions about the direction of technology and the concept of agency. Meller believes that contemporary art plays a crucial role in questioning our time’s most significant issues.
Also in attendance is Geminoid, a besuited male robot designed to mirror the appearance, accent, and mannerisms of its creator, Prof Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University, Japan. Although Ishiguro is not present at the conference, Geminoid will speak on his behalf.
Dr. Uchida Takahisa, a member of Ishiguro’s robotics lab, highlights the flexibility of controlling robots remotely. He mentions that Prof Ishiguro can command the robot from Japan, and even the digital minister of Japan possesses an android robot.