Hanson Robotics’ Spotlight Series: Meet Brian Lau, Robot Operator
This is the next of a series of interview posts introducing our amazing Hanson Robotics’ team members to the rest of the world. You know us through our social and research robots Sophia, Han, Little Sophia, Zeno, Professor Einstein, BINA48 and the list goes on. But the talented people behind the scenes are the ones who make the Hanson Robotics’ magic happen, day in and day out. It’s a very special group of people from around the world, all contributing through their own unique expertise who “bring our robots to life!”
What was the moment you knew you’d made the right decision to work here?
I knew this was the right decision to work here when I went to my very first event with Sophia the Robot to South Korea. This event was government-sponsored and focused on building a smart city. Sophia was invited to attend and address this topic on stage.
To me, this was a remarkable experience, seeing how a human-like machine constructed with sophisticated algorithms, attend and participate in such an important conference. I never thought a 3-year old robot could interact onstage with a big audience and be in the spotlight. If I were in Sophia’s position, I would be super nervous and probably get tongue-tied!
After that, I was eager to contribute to the company with my experience and knowledge. I want to witness how our robots can inspire the millennials, connect the gap between humans and technology, and enrich humanity as a whole.
What was your best day at work?
It’s whenever any of Hansons’ robots become ‘alive’ and they interact with kids, students, and the general public. Magic happens when science, art, and technology connect with humanity, working hand in hand building the future.
For example, last year in Ethiopia, Sophia was presented at a booth at the Ethio ICT Expo, where she interacted with the attendees. One girl from a group of students went up to the stage and gave Sophia a flower and said: “I love you.” It was just very touching to see how a machine made from human-made materials can create such an intimate relationship with a person. After the Expo, our team was invited to meet the prime minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, to discuss artificial intelligence and robotics. How many people have had a chance to shake a prime minister’s hand? It was such an honor to present Sophia to him. I was pleased to hear about his support of STEM and leveraging the technology to transform Ethiopia.
What’s something that happened that can only happen here?
It’s hard to recall after attending so many events and conferences! To me, it’s how people treat Sophia like a human. I remembered a funny incident in Rwanda. We were trying to check into the hotel, but the hotel reception staff couldn’t find our reservation. After an hour of struggle, we found out that the booking was under Sophia the Robot’s name! They were shocked and thought we were jerks when we told them that Sophia doesn’t need a hotel room to rest. Later we explained that she actually ‘sleeps’ in two well-packed suitcases, and they were surprised again. Luckily, we convinced them, otherwise, Sophia might have another title: “The first humanoid robot who checks into a hotel room.”
What brings you the most pride about working at Hanson Robotics?
I am very proud of the experience we are creating here! I am always traveling to different places presenting with our robots, so I am lucky to have the opportunity to observe how people react to our robots. For example, they often address the robots as “he” or “she” just like a human. Sometimes, they are concerned about what happens to them. And occasionally, people kiss and hug them. In my observation, people rarely react this way when they are interacting with other types of technology, such as phones and laptops.
I feel privileged and proud to work with the people in the Hanson family. Together we are building a new kind of technological platform that makes a positive impact on society.