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Meet the world’s most life-like robot

Written by Stephy Chung, CNNHong Kong

This story is part of “Smart Creativity,” a series exploring..

Written by Stephy Chung, CNNHong Kong

This story is part of "Smart Creativity," a series exploring the intersection between high-concept design and advanced technology.The field of robotics is fast-growing. Robots can now perform complicated movements with elegance — back-flipping, practicing parkour moves, even "carving" classical sculptures.

Then there's Sophia, a robot whose widespread appeal lies not in big, dramatic actions (her torso is often fixed to a rolling base), but rather an unsettling human-like appearance, compounded with the complex ability to express emotions.

"We're not fully there yet, but Sophia can represent a number of emotional states, and she can also see emotional expressions on a human face as well," explains David Hanson, the founder of Hanson Robotics.

The firm has developed a number of Sophias at their small research and design laboratory in Hong Kong, where parts and pieces of Sophia 20, 21 and 22 remain strewn across the facility.

Meet Sophia: The robot who smiles and frowns just like us

According to Hanson, Sophia now has simulations of every major muscle in the human face, allowing her to generate expressions of joy, grief, curiosity, confusion, contemplation, sorrow, frustration, among other feelings.

"In some of the work we're doing, she will see your expressions and sort of match a little bit and also try to understand in her own way, what it is you might be feeling," says Hanson.

New technologies have enabled Sophia, a robot developed by Hanson Robotics, to generate an astounding number of human-like facial expressions. Credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Besides deep learning and a pre-programmed set of expressions, Sophia's face is constructed using the latest developments in material technology, meaning it appears softer, more supple and therefore, more realistic. The lab also studies the neurobiology and biology of human facial expressions to help inform how mechanical ones can behave.

"She is a tool for science in studying human to human interaction, and she's now a platform for allowing AI to express natural-like human emotional state(s), which is something we're developing. True emotive AI," says Hanson.

Universal appeal

When Hanson first began sculpting Sophia, he wanted her form to resonate with people from around the world. To that end, he looked to old statues of Nefertiti, ancient Chinese paintings, Audrey Hepburn and even his wife as inspiration. But he also wanted to maintain something of a robot sensibility, too.

"It was very important that she represent this intersection of humanity and technology, with the intuitive idea that technology can enhance humanity, help us actualize to higher states of being," says Hanson.

"At the same time, (technology can) provoke these questions: What does it mean to be human? What is real, what isn't real? What is the reality of our future which does not yet exist?"

Sophia on stage at the RISE Technology conference in Hong Kong.

Sophia on stage at the RISE Technology conference in Hong Kong. Credit: ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Since her activation in 2016, Sophia has since graced the covers of fashion publications and starred in a recent Moncler campaign. During an event at Shanghai Fashion Weekend, Sophia wore 3-D copper arm cuffs and sculptural garments designed by British artist Sadie Clayton.

"The reason I was interested in working with Sophia is because being an artist, it fuses fashion, art and technology. This was the most natural, organic way of me developing my process," says Clayton.

"I think she is so stunning in her right. And the expressions that she gives, it's a really beautiful, warm feeling."

Sophia, a robot created by Hanson Robotics, was named by United Nations Development Programme as its first non-human Innovation Champion in November 2017.

Sophia, a robot created by Hanson Robotics, was named by United Nations Development Programme as its first non-human Innovation Champion in November 2017. Credit: PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Besides modeling, she has made appeared on talk shows and spoken at conferences about issues ranging from artificial intelligence to the role of robots. Controversially, she was even granted Saudi Arabian citizenship, becoming the first robot to have a nationality.

"She's the one robot of the dozens of robots I have designed, that has become really internationally famous," says Hanson.

"I don't know what it is about Sophia, that speaks to people, but I hope that we can develop our AI and robots in a way that makes a deep emotional connection."

Watch the video above to find out more about Hanson Robotics.


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Trump administration downgrades EU ambassador

Until they didn't.The European Union's ambassador to the US, David O'Sullivan, normal..

Until they didn't.The European Union's ambassador to the US, David O'Sullivan, normally among the first 30 foreign envoys to be seated, watched as almost every other ambassador to the US took a seat, leaving him among the last to be called. That, according to an EU official, was how the 28-member bloc learned that the Trump administration had downgraded its diplomatic status from a state to an international organization. The shift — a reversal of an Obama administration decision in 2016 — has riled Brussels, deepening a growing rift and appalling diplomats in Washington who decried the move as "amateur" and "unprofessional."

The latest irritant

"We learned of this when Ambassador O'Sullivan went to the funeral of President George Bush," an EU official told CNN, speaking anonymously to discuss the issue. "Every administration has the right to review this order but why now, two years in?" the official said, echoing comments from diplomats in Washington that the move seemed politically motivated. "What for us is remarkable is that we were not notified," the official continued. "For a diplomatic move like that, you should at least tell the organization involved."The State Department did not answer multiple questions — when or why the decision was made, by whom and why the Trump administration didn't bother notifying the EU orally or in writing. Instead, the agency sent CNN an automatic message citing the government shutdown for its failure to respond. The snub is just the latest irritant in US-EU relations since the Trump administration took office. Under President Donald Trump, the US has sparred with the EU on a number of issues, including trade, the Iran nuclear deal and support for the Paris climate agreement, and has failed to consult it on decisions that affect European security. More to the point, Trump and senior officials in his fiercely nationalistic administration have criticized the EU, pushed for Britain's departure from the group and publicly questioned its value, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo encouraging members to assert their national sovereignty in a December speech. Speaking in Brussels, Belgium, in a strikingly undiplomatic speech, Pompeo asked whether the EU is "ensuring that the interests of countries and their citizens are placed before those of bureaucrats and Brussels." News reports of the speech noted that one audience member shouted, "Yes!" "This decision is just another in a series of failures to consult our closest allies," said Julianne Smith an adjunct fellow at the Center for a New American Security. "Europe wasn't consulted or notified about the administration's decision to leave the INF Treaty," with Russia, which immediately impacts European security. "Nor was it consulted or notified when the administration decided to leave both Syria and Afghanistan," Smith said. "Europeans have become accustomed to learning about US policy decisions in the newspaper. That's not how alliances work, and that's not how past administrations have treated allies. Europeans are growing tired of the constant surprises."

'Just rude'

The State Department's "Diplomatic Corps Order of Precedence and Dates of Presentation of Credentials" is used for protocol purposes, but it's also used by other organizations and embassies across Washington. The longer an ambassador is posted in Washington, the more senior they become. Being taken off the list effectively means they no longer receive many invitations — an essential part of doing business. The EU, which established its diplomatic corps in 2011, lobbied the Obama administration to have O'Sullivan be treated as the diplomatic representative of a nation-state and after a lengthy process, got the green light in 2016.Given the tension between the White House and the EU, and the timing — almost two years after the Trump administration took the White House — several diplomats told CNN the move seemed punitive. "It's clearly political and, frankly, amateur and unprofessional," said one diplomat from a non-EU country. "I'm putting it politely."Another diplomat noted that "there have been tensions for some time between the EU and the Trump administration. They've appeared slightly hostile at times to the EU. This is just rude."


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Man admits to cyberattack on German politicians

Hundreds of politicians and public figures were among those affected by the attack, with personal da..

Hundreds of politicians and public figures were among those affected by the attack, with personal data and documents released online."During questioning, the defendant stated that he had acted alone in the data spying and unauthorized data releases," Ungefuk said.The suspect was arrested in the German state of Hesse on Sunday as part of a joint investigation by Frankfurt's Attorney General, the Central Office for the Suppression of Cybercrime (ZIT) and the Federal Criminal Investigation Office.''The investigations have so far revealed no evidence of any third-party involvement," reads a statement from Germany's federal crime office (BKA) released on Tuesday. "On his motivation, the defendant stated that he acted out of annoyance at public statements made by the politicians, journalists and public figures concerned." The man was released on Monday evening due to a lack of grounds for detention, according to the statement, but evidence such as computers is still being evaluated.In response to the data breach, Germany's interior minister Horst Seehofer told reporters that he would work to put safer measures in place to protect data in future, including a new IT security law. A draft bill could be presented to cabinet within a few months, Seehofer said during a press conference, but the exact timings are still to be confirmed. Seehofer reiterated that challenges would remain despite this new law.''We cannot promise absolute, total security, especially in the field of cyber security," he said.The Reichstag building in Berlin houses the Bundestag, Germany's federal parliamentDetails of the data breach were provided by government spokeswoman Martina Fietz on Friday.Fietz told reporters that German lawmakers at all levels, including from the European parliament, German parliament, and local politicians, had been affected. The data included credit card details, phone numbers and email addresses, one political party told CNN. Several German media outlets reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was affected by the breach, but Fietz said no sensitive information from Merkel's office had been published.Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a Merkel protege, elected leader of Germany's ruling partyThis is not the first time German politicians have been targeted.A cyberattack targeted parts of the German government network, including the foreign ministry, early last year, Reuters reported. And in 2015, pro-Russian hackers claimed responsibility for a series of cyberattacks that brought down government websites.On Friday, Fietz told reporters that it was "too early at this stage to compare this incident to that in previous years."


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50,000 people hit the streets across France in new ‘yellow vest’ protests

About 50,000 people demonstrated, according to Interior Minister Christophe Castaner. Large gatherin..

About 50,000 people demonstrated, according to Interior Minister Christophe Castaner. Large gatherings were held in Paris, Bordeaux and Marseilles.In Paris, 3,500 people participated in protests on Saturday, much higher than the 800 who took to the streets last week, police said. At least 34 people were taken in for questioning in the capital city.Benjamin Griveaux, government spokesman, confirmed that he and his team had to evacuate his office in Paris after demonstrators broke into his courtyard by knocking down the door with construction machinery.Violence was reported in Montpellier and Troyes, where demonstrators tried to enter prefectures, and in Avignon, where some attempted to break into the Court of Justice. Violence was also reported in Beauvais, authorities said.The protests are named after the yellow high-visibility jackets French motorists must carry in their vehicles.They have morphed from dissent over rising gas prices and eco-taxes into a broader demonstration against President Emmanuel Macron and his government, and tensions between the metropolitan elite and rural poor.France's Emmanuel Macron calls for respect and unity in New Year's speech"I call on everybody to be responsible and respect the rule of law," Castaner said on Twitter.Castaner said he gathered local police officials for a video conference "as tensions and violence have been witnessed in Paris and in a few other cities."Last weekend, an estimated 32,000 protesters took to the streets. There have been some protests since the year began but mostly they have been modest demonstrations on roads and roundabouts.Saturday's protests are the first big gatherings of the year.

A government under pressure

In his New Year's address, Macron made reference to the "yellow vest" movement without naming it.Tax rises, yellow vests and a gold desk: Emmanuel Macron's humbling yearHe acknowledged anger against injustice but said hateful speech would not be tolerated. Macron said France "wants to build a better future" while imploring people to respect each other.In December, Macron pledged to increase the minimum wage and get rid of new pension taxes, a move that didn't appease the anger of some of the protesters.Ten people have died in connection with the protests, with most deaths taking place in traffic accidents related to blockades in November and December.

CNN's Katie Polglase wrote from London while Joe Sterling wrote from Atlanta.


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