Saudi Humanoid Robot Touches Woman Inappropriately During Presentation, Sparks Debate Online


A robotics company’s presentation of a “male” humanoid robot took an unexpected turn after it appeared to reach out and inappropriately touch a female reporter in Saudi Arabia.

The AI robot, named Muhammad, was developed by Saudi AI and robotics firm QSS and unveiled at DeepFest in Riyadh last week.

A seven-second clip showed Al Arabiya reporter Rawya Kassem speaking to an audience in front of the humanoid before it extended its hand forward to touch her backside.

Kassem can then be seen flinching and raising her palm to signal Muhammad to back off.

Image credits: QSS AI & ROBOTICS

The robot, which speaks English and Arabic, was dressed in a long gown and a red and white keffiyeh, a traditional Arab headdress.

“I am Muhammad, the first Saudi robot in the form of a man,” a DeepFest social media post promoting the event reads.

“I was manufactured and developed here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a national project to demonstrate our achievements in the field of artificial intelligence.”

DeepFest, which presented Muhammad at its main stage, is described as the “premier meeting place for the global artificial intelligence ecosystem” in the Kingdom.

The humanoid, named Muhammad, appeared to extend its arm to inappropriately touch a female reporter covering the event

Image credits: QSS AI & ROBOTICS

After the short video went viral, several social media users weighed in on the situation, debating whether the company’s design allowed for such inappropriate behavior or if it was merely the result of a glitch. 

“Coded to be a creep!” a person wrote, while another commented, “The programming is fishy.”

Somebody else said, “Is there a need for automated misogyny? There’s already so much.”

“Because she mentioned his name and he wanted to shake her hand, but she stood where his hand passed. This is the fault of humans, not the robot,” another individual wrote.

An additional commentator simply referred to the situation as “alarming.”

Muhammad was programmed to speak Arabic and English

Image credits: QSS AI & ROBOTICS

Speaking with Metro, QSS confirmed that the robot was “fully autonomous” and was operating “independently without direct human control.”

The company added that the security of attendees at their events is a priority and that staff had “proactively informed all attendees, including reporters, to maintain a safe distance from the robot during its demonstration.”

“We have already conducted a thorough review of the footage and the circumstances surrounding the incident and there was no deviations from expected behavior of Muhammad, however we will take additional measures to prevent anyone [from] getting close to the Robot within its areas of movement.”

Al Arabiya reporter Rawya Kassem can be seen raising her palm at the AI robot

Image credits: Megh Updates 

Watch the clip below

The incident raises questions regarding a future where robots are integrated into everyday life and the potential challenges that may arise from their interactions with people.

According to Business Insider, human-like robots could be the next trend to come out of the artificial intelligence boom.

The industry is anticipated to be worth $13.8 billion by 2028, a report by MarketsandMarkets indicates.

The use of humanoids as educational robots and the surging demand for humanoid robots from the retail and household sectors as personal assistance are expected to contribute to that growth.

The bizarre situation sparked a debate on the future of AI integration into everyday life

 

 

 

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