In just two minutes an electronic visa was granted to humanoid robot ‘Sophia’ from Hanson Robotics to supplement her visit to Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijani government agency ASAN (Azerbaijan Service and Assessment Network) saw the visit as an opportunity to publicise its digitalised processes.
ASAN has managed to digitalise government processes such as registering births, deaths, marriages, divorces, obtaining passports, driver’s licenses, and many other government-provided processes of course including granting an electronic visa.
So Robots need Visas now?
No. This does not mark the beginning of the robot race being recognised as humans. While this visa was handed out by Azerbaijan to the Hong-Kongese robot, Sophia has travelled all across the world visa free.
The highlight of this story is that a government agency is spearheading digitalisation initiatives – which is hard to believe having previously worked for a local government in the UK!
In fact, the visa was issued with no human interaction at all, which allowed for the swift application and approval of the visa.
A Presidential Meeting
Once allowed into the country, Sophia met with President Ilham Aliyev and praised him for the attention he has given the ASAN agency and the propulsion of e-governance in Azerbaijan.
Sophia’s conversation with the President also showed off her magnificent ability to hold a conversation, using artificial intelligence and a camera system allowing the robot to check facial cues to determine whether to continue the conversation.
It was also a great advertisement for ASAN and made me think about what e-governance is available in the UK, whether gov.uk counts as digitalisation, and if humanoid robots are becoming more than just a marketing gimmick – although this story may prove otherwise.