Saudi Arabia becomes first country to grant citizenship to a robot

Sophia the android addressed the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh yesterday to the delight of hundreds of delegates. (Courtesy of FII)
Updated 26 October 2017

Saudi Arabia becomes first country to grant citizenship to a robot

LONDON: A humanoid robot took the stage at the Future Investment Initiative yesterday and had an amusing exchange with the host to the delight of hundreds of delegates.
Smartphones were held aloft as Sophia, a robot designed by Hong Kong company Hanson Robotics, gave a presentation that demonstrated her capacity for human expression.
Sophia made global headlines when she was granted Saudi citizenship, making the kingdom the first country in the world to offer its citizenship to a robot.
“I want to live and work with humans so I need to express the emotions to understand humans and build trust with people,” she said in an exchange with moderator Andrew Ross Sorkin.
Asked whether robots can be self-aware, conscious and know they're robots, she said: “Well let me ask you this back, how do you know you are human?” “I want to use my artificial intelligence to help humans live a better life, like design smarter homes, build better cities of the future. I will do my best to make the world a better place,” she said.
Her desire to achieve more human-like characteristics was rewarded by being granted the first Saudi citizenship for a robot.
“I am very honored and proud for this unique distinction. This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship,” Sophia said.
A panel made up of experts from some of the world’s leading companies and research institutions discussed the scope for innovations in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, quantum computing, machine learning and mixed reality to yield the next generation of products and services, paving the way for productivity and progress in emerging economies. The session, called “Thinking machines: Summit on artificial intelligence and robotics,” explored the potential uplift for businesses that harness AI and robotic technologies.
Marc Raibert, Founder & CEO of Boston Dynamics, pinpointed entertainment, security, emergency response and construction as just a few of the sectors that stand to be revolutionized by robotics.

“I happen to believe that robotics will be bigger than the Internet,” he said. Ulrich Spiesshofer, CEO of ABB Group in Switzerland anticipated “the new normal in which humans and robots work together.” “I think we have an exciting future in front of us” he added before conducting a demonstration of a robot solving a Rubik‘s cube in a matter of minutes.
Keynote speaker Masayoshi Son, Chairman & CEO of SoftBank Group Corp, a Japanese telecommunications and Internet company, which is working with Saudi Arabia on the development of a new business and industrial city, discussed the future of mankind in relation to AI and robots.
“Every industry will be redefined,” he said, describing the “great opportunity” that lies ahead. “These computers, they will learn, they will read, they will see by themselves. That’s a scary future but anyway that’scoming,” he said.
Touching on concerns that robots could eventually outsmart humans and pose a threat, he added: “They are so smart they will understand it is meaningless to attack humans.” “We (will) create a new happier life together.” On Tuesday Saudi Arabia announced plans to build a $500 billion mega city powered by robotics and renewables on the country’s Red Sea coast. Majid Alghaslan, a young Saudi chairing a growing company in energy services and innovative technologies said: “Saudi Arabia is in the midst of an unprecedented economic, social, and development-accelerated transformation and it’s now clear that it’s more open than ever for business, especially for dreamers, and it is all in the context of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.” “Innovation will be the major foundation of our transformation and this is another major factor for sustainable economic prosperity and development for the future generation of Saudis and the world.”


Arabic anime voice actors prepare for new show at Riyadh expo

Updated 17 November 2019

Arabic anime voice actors prepare for new show at Riyadh expo

  • Waheed Jalal's voice acting as “Treasure Island” antagonist John Silver has captivated generations

RIYADH: Visitors to Riyadh’s first anime expo stopped by the first panel on Saturday unaware that they would be leaving the stage with memories renewed of their favorite voice actors of all time.

Waheed Jalal and Jihad Al-Atrashi will forever live on in the hearts of fans of “Grendizer” and “Treasure Island (Takarajima),” the two shows that introduced the Arab world to anime in the 1970s.

Jalal, whose voice acting as “Treasure Island” antagonist John Silver has captivated generations, expressed how delighted he was to be with the audience.

“I want to thank you and your Kingdom of generosity and culture,” he said.

Al-Atrash, who portrayed Duke Fleed, echoed his sentiments: “You are great people with great values, thank you to the people of the Kingdom that stand next to people of all nations.”

Jalal was touched by the audience’s love and warm welcome, “You guys are the reason we continued this far, without you it wouldn’t have been possible,” he told them.

“We’re persevering to this day because people loved these characters we portrayed so much, our other works pale in comparison,” he added.

Jalal said that the reason “Grendizer” remained with so many people is because of the values and morals depicted in the show, teaching generations to be loyal and loving to their nation and their people.

Artist and creator Ibrahim Al-Lami. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

The voice acting pair talked about the importance of speaking in formal Arabic in these shows. Jalal said it’s because “you’re presenting to the entire Arab world.”

Local dialects would be difficult for others to understand, so we must all aspire to perfect our formal Arabic, added Jalal.

Before concluding the talk, a teaser was played of the first Saudi anime “Makkeen” by artist and creator, Ibrahim Al-Lami, who announced that 60 percent of the work was completed through local efforts.

“We’ll introduce a new work that is by our people, written by our people and voiced by our people,” he said to the audience.

The work will feature characters voiced by Jalal and Al-Atrash, who have become symbolic to the Arab anime world. “I told them, this work wouldn’t be complete without you two,” said Lami on his choice of voice actors. “We want these works to see the light of day. We need to provide the new generations with tales of our own,” added Al-Atrash when asked why he wanted to partake in the anime.