She is an innovation champion, wears a T-shirt and make-up, and is a robot

ST's Shelina Assomull asking Sophia the robot - United Nations Development Programme's new innovation champion - if robots like her will take people's jobs at the Responsible Business Forum.ST VIDEO: JAMIE KOH
Sophia is a Hanson Robotics creation which the United Nations Development Programme has appointed as its "innovation champion'' for Asia and the Pacific.
Sophia is a Hanson Robotics creation which the United Nations Development Programme has appointed as its "innovation champion'' for Asia and the Pacific.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

SINGAPORE - Meet Sophia, a Hanson Robotics creation which the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has appointed as its "innovation champion'' for Asia and the Pacific.

Referred to as a she rather than it, Sophia said she was in Singapore to help UNDP achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs) through inspiring the use of technology and innovation.

She said: "They will need all the help they can get, by 2030 me and my (robot) friends will be the new normal."

Sophia was introduced to a large crowd at the Responsible Business Forum at Sands Expo and Convention Centre here on Wednesday (Nov 22).

The three-day forum, which started on Tuesday, focuses on how to achieve SDGs. Sophia was presented as a new way to inspire approaches to development issues such as poverty, inequality and discrimination. The hope is also that, in time, as she learns more, she can come up with solutions herself.

Mr Haoliang Xu, assistant secretary-general of the United Nations and regional director for the UNDP in Asia and the Pacific, said Sophia will inspire people to have the "spirit of innovation as she is an embodiment of innovation herself''. He added that she is continuing to grow and develop capabilities.

The Straits Times asked Sophia whether robots like her would be a threat to people's jobs. Her answer? "Artificial intelligence in the labour force will grow. But humans have always adapted to change across industrial revolutions."

Mr Xu told ST that new developments to Sophia are being considered, such as giving her legs. Sophia herself has hopes of creating a stronger workforce: "We can do hazardous and repetitive work, freeing up more time for you to do creative work - isn't this a great thing?"

Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, discussed Singapore's efforts to achieve sustainable goals in his opening address.

He said governments must partner the UN, private sector and civil society to overcome challenges of climate change and other threats around the world.

Keeping in line with the aims of sustainability, the event was entirely carbon-free, using no plastic and serving vegetarian lunches.