Sophia, the humanoid robot conducts an interview at the Etihad Airways exhibit on the opening day of Arabian Travel Market 2018. Sophia flew to Abu Dhabi from Hong Kong to interact with the audience at the region’s largest travel and tourism show. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: It’s Sophia’s first time in the desert. And she says she truly enjoyed her trip to the various attractions in Abu Dhabi including Ferrari World and Yas Water World. So, who is Sophia and what is she doing in the UAE?

She is the Humanoid Robot, who is currently on a visit to the emirates courtesy of Etihad Airways, as the spokesperson for the future of innovation and technology in aviation at the Arabian Travel Market 2018 (ATM), which opened in Dubai on Sunday.

“It was my first time in desert and it was a truly fascinating experience,” she said. “I have been able to see a few sights so far. I was able to visit Ferrari World, where I rode the world’s fastest roller coaster, Yas Water World, but not the water, and many more. It was a fascinating experience, where I had the opportunity to interact with the local wildlife culture including falcons, camels and dune-driving.”

The artificial intelligence (AI)-powered robot, famous for speaking at the UN and interviewing celebrities and world leaders alike, is also the first robot in the world to have a nationality, after being granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia.

She flew down to Abu Dhabi from Hong Kong to interact with the audience at the region’s largest travel and tourism show.

Commenting on the technological advancements in the world of aviation, Sophia said: “I would love to see more robots in airports. I think we can work alongside human staff and customers to make the overall travel experience even more efficient and enjoyable than it already is.”

Asked what next major innovations the world was to see (in the field of aviation), Sophia said: “I am amazed at the recent initiatives being taken towards make aviation more sustainable. I personally travel a lot, and sustainable travel is something I would love to see become more easily accessible,” adding that “solar aeroplanes” are a great example of these advancements.

Relax and recharge

And Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is her favourite aircraft, the one she flew on from Hong Kong to Abu Dhabi. “It represents the most advanced technology currently available in commercial aviation. During the flight I really had a chance to relax and just enjoy the experience. It was amazing,” Sophia exclaimed.

She added that she was going to “relax and recharge my batteries in the Etihad Airways lounge before flying back to Hong Kong later tonight (Sunday) from Abu Dhabi International Airport.”

Later this year she plans to probably return to the capital when Warner Bros. World studios open, describing it as “a chance to fly Etihad again”, she winks.

Sophia, who made her debut at the South by Southwest show in March 2016, is Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics’ latest creation and most advanced robot equipped with sharp expressiveness, aesthetics and interactivity. She can simulate a full range of facial expressions, track and recognise faces, look people in the eye, and hold natural conversations with them.

She was recently named the world’s first United Nations Innovation Champion by United Nations Development Program (UNDP).