AI summit showcases human-like robots to aid UN mission

Dozens of humanoid-like robots will take center stage at the United Nations “AI For Good” Global Summit, showcasing how advancements in artificial intelligence can be used to support the UN mission for a connected, inclusive, and sustainable world.

The interactive AI summit takes place in Geneva, Switzerland on July 6th and 7th, organized by the UN’s specialized information and communication technologies agency, the International Telecommunications Union (ICU).

The two-day event will introduce over fifty robots – ranging from rudimentary to cutting edge – in an effort to help the UN advance its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), considered a a “rescue plan” for the people and planet.

"The SDGs, let's say regrettably, are failing and I do believe that AI can help rescue them before it's too late," said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, ITU Secretary General.

The summit’s finale on Friday will present the world’s first human-robot press conference with a panel of robots taking questions from the media.

Meet the Robots

Besides a bevy of talks and demonstrations by the world’s most profound AI innovators and problem solvers, the starpower belonging to the summit are most certainly not of the human kind.

Take, for instance, the University of Geneva and MIRALab’s “Nadine” – considered one of the most realistic humanoid social robots of the bunch and modeled after a university professor – and Grace, the world’s foremost nursing assistant robot, created by Hanson Robotics and SingularityNET.

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AI for Good Global Summit, United Nations

The socially intelligent Nadine can simulate emotions and other people skills such as greetings, making eye contact, and gestures using over 27 facial expressions and upper body movements.

ITU’s Head of Strategic Engagement, Frederic Werner, said the idea for the summit was to showcase the robots' capabilities and begin a global dialogue on the opportunities, challenges, and ethical implications advanced AI technology brings to the table.

“Robots may take off in the next five years in the same way that generative artificial intelligence (AI) behind bots like OpenAI's ChatGPT has hit the mainstream this year,” Werner said.

According to Nadine's description, the “female’ robot boasts a strong human-likeness with natural-looking skin, hair, and realistic hands, plus the ability to recognize persons it has already met, as well as conversations it had with them.

Besides being put to the test as a customer service agent at an art/science museum and an insurance company in Singapore, Nadine was successfully placed in a retirement home during 2019-2020, acting as a companion for the elderly.

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AI for Good Global Summit, United Nations

The UN also has tapped into the world’s first robot citizen and innovation ambassador with Sophia.

Sophia has made appearances on the Tonight Show and Good Morning Britain, in addition to speaking at hundreds of conferences around the world, according to her robot bio.

Geminoid HI-2 is a teleoperated android that has a similar appearance to its original person prototype, and Ai-Da is the world’s first ultra-realistic robot performance artist that can draw and paint.

Alongside Nadine and Grace, other humanoid female robots are Mika, the world’s first AI CEO, and Desdemona, aka “Desi,” a humanoid robot and the lead vocalist of the AI Jam Galaxy Band.

CEO Mika is designed to use algorithms and machine learning to make strategic decisions and optimize business operations, according to its makers.

Gender-neutral androids on display include NEURA Robotics’ MAiRA, the first commercially available cognitive robot that performs industrial tasks, and the Buddy, an emotional companion robot.

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AI for Good Global Summit, United Nations

According to the ICU, the featured robots will address various sustainability tasks, from medical analysis, exploration, digital farming, and fire fighting to environmental assessment, construction innovation, academic tutoring, and even a robot bartender.

"You have the inflection point where material science, battery life, network connectivity, AI and machine learning, all these things will converge to basically make robotics more accessible than they are now," Werner said.

Sustainability and AI

AI is already being put to use at several UN agencies, including the World Food Program's Hunger Map project, which analyzes data to identify areas at pre-risk of hunger.

The World Health Organization is currently using artificial intelligence to create uniform and accurate disease diagnoses, while AI is also being used to develop remote-controlled trucks to deliver emergency aid in danger zones.

Addressing issues such as poverty, inequality, climate change, peace, and justice, the United Nations’ sustainability goals were introduced by the global agency in 2015 with the intent to drastically improve human life and the planet by 2030.

A Special Edition SDG Progress report released in May revealed that as of 2023, halfway toward its 2030 goal date, “the SDGs are in deep trouble.”

The most recent UN data shows that out of 140 SDG targets, ”only about 12% are on track.”

The UN is hoping to change the SDG’s failing trajectory by incorporating the use of AI technology as part of the solution.

“The proliferation of robotics, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, the Internet of Things(IoT), and cloud and mobile computing can support human well-being and the SDGs,” the UN Secretary-General stated in the May report.

Over 900 organizations and universities from nearly 200 countries will participate in the event, including big tech companies like Google, Samsung, and Huawei Technologies.