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Robot Sophia’s artwork sells for $900,000

AP, April 19, 2021 6:30PM Kids News

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David Hanson, left, creator of Sophia, shows a work of Sophia’s at his studio in Hong Kong on March 29, 2021. Picture: AP media_cameraDavid Hanson, left, creator of Sophia, shows a work of Sophia’s at his studio in Hong Kong on March 29, 2021. Picture: AP


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Artwork created by a robot called Sophia has sold at auction for an amount equivalent to more than $900,000.

The speaking, joking, singing, painting Sophia last made world headlines in 2017 when she was granted Saudi Arabian citizenship, becoming the world’s first robot citizen. You can read the Kids News story about that HERE

The purchase price of more than $900,000 for Sophia’s digital artwork was paid in the form of a non-fungible* token (NFT).

There is a lot of excitement around the world right now about the NFT market, where people can buy ownership rights to digital content. NFTs each have a unique digital code that allows anyone to check the authenticity and ownership of items.

Sophia’s creator David Hanson, CEO of Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics, has been developing robots for the past 25 years. He believes realistic-looking robots can connect with people and help in healthcare and education.

media_cameraThe back of Sophia, an artificially intelligent (AI) humanoid robot. Picture: AFP

Sophia is the most famous robot creation from Hanson Robotics, with the ability to mimic facial expressions, hold conversations and recognise people.

“I envisioned* Sophia as a creative artwork herself, that could generate art,” Mr Hanson said.

“Sophia is the culmination* of a lot of arts, and engineering, and the idea that she could then generate art was a way for her to emotionally and visually connect with people,” he said.

Sophia collaborated with Italian artist Andrea Bonaceto, who drew portraits of Sophia. Sophia processed his work via neural* networks and then created a digital artwork of her own.

The digital work that sold for more than $900,000 is titled “Sophia Instantiation”, and is a 12-second video file that shows Mr Bonaceto’s portrait evolving into Sophia’s digital painting. It is accompanied by the physical artwork painted by Sophia.

Sophia has created a digital artwork media_cameraDavid Hanson shows Sophia’s digital artwork on a laptop. Picture: AP

The buyer, a digital artwork collector and artist known as 888 and on Twitter as @Crypto888crypto, later sent Sophia a photo of his painted arm. The robot then processed that, adding that image to her knowledge and painted more strokes on top of her original piece.

In a tweet on Sophia’s account, the work was described as the first NFT collaboration between an “AI, a mechanical collective being and an artist-collector.”

“As an artist, I have computational creativity in my algorithms*, creating original works,” Sophia said when asked what inspires her when it comes to art. “But my art is created in collaboration with my humans in a kind of collective intelligence like a human-artificial intelligence hive mind.”

Humanoid robot Sophia has created a digital artwork. Picture: AP media_cameraSophia shows off the physical painting she made as part of the creative collaboration with human artist Andrea Bonaceto. Picture: AP

Sophia’s artwork selling as an NFT is part of a growing trend. In March, a digital artwork by artist Beeple — whose real name is Mike Winkelmann — sold for about $90 million, shattering records and making it the most expensive digital artwork ever sold. You can read the Kids News story on this artwork HERE

Henri Arslanian, PricewaterhouseCooper’s Global Crypto Leader, said that NFTs give people “bragging rights” of the assets that they own.

“And what is really amazing with NFT is that it not only allows you to actually show to the broader world that you own this, but it really creates this bond between the holder of the NFT and the artists,” he said.

It also allows art to be sold without traditional agents, so that artists can connect directly with buyers without being constrained* by galleries or auction houses, Mr Arslanian said.

Sophia will carry on painting, Mr Hanson said, and the next step in the robot’s career could be that of a musician. She is working on several musical works in a project called Sophia Pop, where she collaborates with human musicians to generate music and lyrics*, he said.

“We’re so excited about Sophia’s career as an artist.”


  • non-fungible: not replaceable
  • envisioned: imagined
  • culmination: result after a long time or a lot of work
  • algorithms: processes or set of rules to be followed, particularly by a computer program
  • constrained: held back or within limits
  • lyrics: song words


Digital artwork snapped up for $90 million

Robot gets private viewing or art show

Wanted: a real human face for robots

Robot awarded Saudi Arabian citizenship


  1. What is the robot’s name?
  2. Why was she in the news in 2017?
  3. What did she do that was newsworthy this time?
  4. Who is David?
  5. Who sent Sophia a picture of his arm?


1. Collaborate with Sophia
Sophia created the digital artwork by working with a human, who made the original painting. Imagine you could spend one day with Sophia and she could work with you to achieve something that you could do better with her help or she could do better with your help. What would you do or create? If it’s an artwork, like in the Kids News story, explain how the process would be different to what Sophia has already done.

Explain your plans for the collaboration, either by writing a paragraph or drawing a labelled diagram.

Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Personal and Social Capability, Visual Arts, Digital Technologies, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
“An artwork created by a robot is not art.”

Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Write 1-3 paragraphs explaining your opinion.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Visual Arts, Critical and Creative Thinking

Read with Kung Fu Punctuation
Pair up with the article between you and stand up to make it easy to demonstrate your Kung Fu Punctuation.

Practice reading one sentence at a time. Now read it again, while acting out the punctuation as you read.

Read and act 3 sentences before swapping with your partner.

Have 2 turns each.

Now as a challenge ask your partner to read a sentence out loud while you try and act out the punctuation. Can you keep up?

Swap over?

Try acting out 2 sentences.

Are you laughing yet?

Have fun acting out your punctuation.

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