Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics, the developers of the celebrity humanoid robot Sophia, is launching a new prototype, Grace, designed to interact with the elderly and those isolated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grace resembles a healthcare professional and has the capacity for social interaction which is aimed at relieving the workload of front-line hospital staff who struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The humanoid robot is dressed in a blue nurse’s uniform and has Asian features, collar-length brown hair and a thermal camera in her chest to take the user’s temperature and measure their responsiveness. The humanoid robot uses artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnose a patient and it can speak English, Mandarin and Cantonese.
“I can visit with people and brighten their day with social stimulation, but can also do talk therapy, take bio readings and help healthcare providers,” Grace told, as she stood next to Sophia, in creator Hanson Robotics’ Hong Kong workshop.
“A human-like appearance facilitates trust and natural engagement because we are wired for human face-to-face interactions,” the founder of Hanson Robotics, David Hanson said.
Grace, which was created focusing on the growing healthcare market, can simulate the action of over 48 major facial muscles and has a comforting demeanor designed to look a little like anime characters, often a fusion of Asian and Western styles.
David Lake, chief executive of Awakening Health, a joint venture between Hanson Robotics and Singularity Studio, said that they aim to mass-produce a beta version of Grace by August and to fully deploy the robot in 2022 in places including Hong Kong, mainland China, Japan and Korea.
The cost of making the robots, which now equal to luxury car pricing, will come down once the company starts manufacturing tens or hundreds of thousands of units, Mr. Hanson said.
Many people have had their mental states affected by negative thoughts, as they got stuck at home during COVID-19 lockdowns. “If they can get help through the deployment of these social robots in intimate settings, certainly it will have a positive impact on society,” Kim Min-Sun, a communicology professor at the University of Hawaii, said.
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