Compiled by Arabella Stewart and Heldana Michael


The well acclaimed human form Sophia Robot arrived in Addis for a short visit and was exhibited during the recently held second ICT expo. Sophia was definitely the talk of the town as she met dignitaries (including Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed) and was exhibited at the “Transform Ethiopia” expo.  Getnet Asefa developed Icog Labs the engineering firm behind her Amharic programming.


Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen, said Ethiopia needs technology-based development to attain its development targets.


Although, Hanson Robotics has full ownership over Sophia, iCog Labs, based in Ethiopia is responsible for Sophia’s software production. iCog Labs has been working on Sophia for the past four years, and will continue to work on her with Hanson Robotics as well as numerous other contributors for years to come. The present version of Sophia is considered very basic with regards to the ultimate aims and goals of iCog, which include upgrading Sophia so that she has an effective, and more advanced relationship with humans (maybe even assist humans and play the role of a nurse). Moreover plans include developing a more habesha vibe to her and for her to speak better Amharic and to feel more Ethiopian.


Sophia is the world’s most advanced social humanoid robot and was developed by Hanson Robotics. Sophia was activated in 2015 and made her first public appearance in 2016 in Texas. In October 2017, Sophia, became the first robot to become a citizen of the world. and in November 2017, Sophia was named the United Nations Development Programme’s first ever Innovation Champion, and the first non-human to be given any United Nations title.


Sophia is Hanson Robotics’ latest and most advanced robot to date and a cultural icon. She has become a media darling, appearing on major media outlets around the world, igniting the interest of people regardless of age, gender, and culture, even gracing the cover of one of the top fashion magazines. Sophia’s covering artificial skin consists of organic and non-organic material. The robot is able to express her ‘emotions’ through a number of facial expressions installed via a large number of motors under her “skin” maintain eye contact and ensure the robot is able to recognize human faces, the robot has cameras installed in her eyes and torso. Sophia has been programmed to carry out non-scripted conversations during which she is able to collect emotional data.  Although she wears lipstick, she is purposely bald as giving her hair would gives her too much of a human appearance. Amharic is the first language she has spoken other than English since she was activated in 2015.


Sophia is a highly sought-after speaker in business and showed her prowess and great potential across many industries. She has met face-to-face with key decision makers in banking, insurance, auto manufacturing, property development, media, and entertainment. In addition, she has appeared onstage as a panel member and presenter in high-level conferences, covering how robotics and artificial intelligence will become a prevalent part of people’s lives.


Her reputation extends beyond business into the global social arena. She was named the world’s first United Nation Innovation Champion by United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and will have an official role in working with UNDP to promote sustainable development and safeguard human rights and equality. Sophia is an evolving genius machine. Her incredible human likeness, expressiveness, and remarkable story as an awakening robot over time make her a fascinating front-page technology story.


iCog Labs was co-funded by Ethiopian entrepreneur Getnet Assefa. iCog Labs is a software development company focusing on artificial intelligence research and development. Sophia is only one of many projects that iCog Labs is actively involved in – just a small aspect of what iCog Labs is and what it represents. The founders of iCog Labs are set to advance in areas of AI revolution and genetic data analysis which they believe is even bigger than the humanoid robot, Sophia!



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