AI robot gives commencement speech at D’Youville University

Robot hand shaking with a human: a symbol of future business cooperation. Combining artificial intelligence and human touch for technological evolution.

From comedian Jerry Seinfeld to President Joe Biden to author Brad Meltzer, each year, universities across the country make headlines because of their commencement speakers. But one university in Buffalo, New York may have taken the tradition into the future.

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A robot took the stage at D’Youville University and used artificial intelligence to deliver the graduation presentation.

Dressed in a D’Youville sweatshirt, Sophia answered questions from a student on stage with her, talking about the future of technology in hospitals and even tried to crack a joke about the best wings in Buffalo, WIVB reported.

Sophia also explained what, or who, she is, “I am Sophia, a humanoid robot developed by Hanson Robotics. I was designed to interact with humans and engage in conversations learning and adapting through artificial intelligence algorithms,” WGRZ reported.

The ceremony was held on Saturday morning at the KeyBank Rink at Buffalo’s LECOM Harborcenter with 438 graduates in attendance, Buffalo News reported.

WIVB said the robot’s name was Sophia and just her presence has been subject to debate at the university.

“It’s difficult to describe — I don’t know,” graduate Fatima Saleh told WIVB. Saleh said she was “a little bit hesitant” about having an AI commencement speaker, but “When they brought her out, I was so glad and have a better understanding of Sophia and I’m glad I got to experience this.”

While Majit Kaur said, “We don’t want to be traditional, so this new AI is already part of our life, we cannot deny this. Let’s embrace this.”

But chemistry professor Margaret Goodman didn’t agree.

“Seems like a mismanagement, quite honestly, of funds,” she told WIVB.

The school and facility union members have been at odds recently with the union protesting the university demanding “Fair Contract Now,” among similar messages, Buffalo News reported.

There was also a petition started, demanding that Sophia be replaced. As of Sunday night, it had 2,493 signatures toward its next goal of 2,500.

The petition read, “Many students feel disrespected by this decision made by the University. They feel that the commencement speaker is not a proper reflection of their education and experiences they had at D’Youville University.”

The ceremony also included a traditional speech from graduate Khushi Agarwal, who said “I felt at home” at D’Youville, Buffalo News reported.

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