HONG KONG — Sophia is a robot of many talents – she speaks, jokes, sings and even makes art. In March, she caused a stir in the art world when a digital work she created as part of a collaboration was sold at an auction for $688,888 in the form of a non-fungible token (NFT).
The sale highlighted a growing frenzy in the NFT market, where people can buy ownership rights to digital content. NFTs each have a unique digital code saved on blockchain ledgers that allow anyone to verify the authenticity and ownership of items.
David Hanson, CEO of Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics and Sophia’s creator, has been developing robots for the past two and a half decades. He believes realistic-looking robots can connect with people and assist in industries such as healthcare and education.
Sophia is the most famous robot creation from Hanson Robotics, with the ability to mimic facial expressions, hold conversations and recognize people. In 2017, she was granted Saudi Arabian citizenship, becoming the world’s first robot citizen.
“I envisioned Sophia as a creative artwork herself, that could generate art,” Hanson said in an interview.
“Sophia is the culmination of a lot of arts, and engineering, and the idea that she could then generate art was a way for her to emotionally and visually connect with people,” he said.
Sophia collaborated with Italian artist Andrea Bonaceto, who drew portraits of Sophia. Sophia then processed his work via neural networks and proceeded to create a digital artwork of her own.
The digital work that sold for $688,888 is titled “Sophia Instantiation”, and is a 12-second video file which shows Bonaceto’s portrait evolving into Sophia’s digital painting. It is accompanied by the physical artwork painted by Sophia.
The buyer, a digital artwork collector and artist known as 888 with the Twitter handle