Saudi Arabia’s New Humanoid Robot ‘Sara’ Won’t Talk About Sex or Politics

Saudi Arabia New Humanoid Robot 'Sara' Won't Talk About Sex or Politics

Saudi Arabia has unveiled its first advanced humanoid robot named Sara, but she comes with some major restrictions programmed into her artificial intelligence – she is banned from discussing sex or politics.

Developed by Riyadh-based QSS AI & Robots, Sara is a sophisticated blend of cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology and Saudi cultural values. With her lifelike appearance and advanced conversational abilities, Sara marks a significant milestone in Saudi Arabia's rapidly evolving tech landscape.

Reflecting National Values

Born from a collaboration between Saudi Digital and QSS Company, Sara embodies the nation's commitment to pushing the boundaries of AI and robotics. Her creation showcases the immense talent and expertise of Saudi engineers and developers, firmly establishing the Kingdom as a rising star in the global tech arena.

The humanoid robot boasts an impressive array of features that set her apart from her predecessors. Sara is equipped with a AI-powered camera that enables her to recognize and interact with visitors, initiating conversations with a simple “Hello Sara” greeting. Her pre-trained language model allows her to understand and respond to various Saudi dialects, analyzing sentences and providing appropriate text-based responses.

Bilingual Capabilities and Cultural Sensitivity

Saudi Arabia Humanoid Robot Sara

One of Sara's most remarkable attributes is her bilingual proficiency. She can fluently converse in both Arabic and English, making her accessible to a wide range of audiences. This linguistic versatility reflects Saudi Arabia's growing global presence and its commitment to fostering international collaborations in the tech sector.

However, what truly sets Sara apart is her adherence to Saudi cultural norms and values. Her creators at QSS AI & Robots have carefully programmed her to navigate sensitive topics with grace and respect. As Elie Metri, CEO of QSS AI & Robots, explained in an interview with Business Insider,

Sara knows that she's a girl, she's 25 years old, she's 1.62 centimeters, she's wearing Saudi clothing. She should be nice, not talking politics, not talking sex because we're in Saudi Arabia. It shouldn't go into those topics.

Sara's attire, a traditional Saudi abaya, further emphasizes her cultural roots. By dressing her in modest clothing that aligns with Saudi societal expectations, QSS AI & Robots demonstrates a deep understanding of the importance of integrating technology with cultural sensitivity.

Proprietary Language Learning Model

Unlike many other AI-powered conversational agents, Sara does not rely on external libraries or platforms like ChatGPT. Instead, she utilizes a proprietary language learning model developed in-house by QSS AI & Robots. This custom-built AI program, trained on vast datasets, enables Sara to generate and understand text and speech with remarkable accuracy and contextual awareness.

The decision to create a proprietary language model reflects QSS AI & Robots' commitment to technological independence and innovation. By developing their own AI solutions, the company ensures that Sara's capabilities are tailored to the specific needs and values of Saudi society, while also maintaining a high level of data security and privacy.

While Saudi Arabia has made significant strides in modernizing its society in recent years, including relaxing dress codes and lifting the ban on women driving, certain topics remain sensitive in public discourse. Discussions surrounding sex and political activism are generally considered taboo, and women still face potential repercussions for challenging societal norms.

Sara's programming takes these cultural nuances into account, ensuring that her interactions remain respectful and appropriate. By avoiding controversial subjects and focusing on positive, constructive conversations, Sara serves as a bridge between advanced technology and traditional Saudi values.

Viral Sensation and Controversy

Sara's debut at the LEAP 2023 conference in Riyadh garnered widespread attention, propelling Saudi Arabia's AI advancements into the global spotlight. Visitors marveled at her lifelike appearance, engaging personality, and ability to perform popular dances. Videos of Sara interacting with attendees quickly went viral on social media, sparking excitement about the future of robotics in the Kingdom.

However, Sara's introduction was not without controversy. An incident involving QSS AI & Robots' male humanoid robot, Muhammad, at the DeepFest conference earlier this year raised eyebrows and sparked heated debates online. In a viral video, Muhammad appeared to extend his hand and touch a female Al Arabiya reporter's backside, leading to accusations of inappropriate behavior.

QSS AI & Robots CEO Elie Metri downplayed the incident, attributing Muhammad's actions to the natural gestures programmed into the robot's behavior. He emphasized that the interaction was unintentional and that the reporter's proximity to Muhammad likely contributed to the perceived impropriety. Metri also highlighted cultural differences in perception, noting that attendees at the conference did not view the incident as problematic, understanding that Muhammad is a robot.

Looking to the Future

The arrival of Saudi's new humanoid robot ambassadors offers a glimpse into what an AI-powered future could look like – both its technological potential and its social complexities. Sara represents a major milestone as one of the world's most advanced humanoid robot creations. With her lifelike appearance, fluency in multiple languages, and self-professed identity as a Saudi woman, she pushes the boundaries of what is possible with modern AI and robotics.

QSS AI & Robots has ambitious plans for Sara's future, including integrating her with IoT devices and creating a Saudi virtual world where she will play a central role. The company's collaboration with Zorabots, a Belgian robotics and software company, further underscores the global nature of AI development and the potential for cross-cultural partnerships.

However, Sara's hardwired limitations around discussing sexuality, politics, and gender issues reveal how human societies' norms, values, and biases could shape the development of AI systems in unintended or problematic ways.

As Metri said of Sara, “She should be nice…” But what defines “nice” when it comes to the social and ethical training of AI? That's a question that could spark continuing debate as humanoid robots like Sara become more integrated into daily life around the world.

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