Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Osinbajo Unveils Africa’s First Humanoid Robot

NITDA Humanoid
The director-general, National Information Technology Development Agency, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi (middle) admiring Africa’s first humanoid robot during its unveiling in Abuja.

Nigeria’s vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has unveiled Africa’s first humanoid robot, ‘Omeife’, built by Uniccon Group. The human-like robot, which understands and speaks a slew of languages, moves and exhibits behavioural intelligence, is Africa’s first.

Speaking during the unveiling in Abuja, Osinbajo, who was represented by Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Pantami – who also assigned the director-general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, to do the unveiling in his stead – announced that the Federal Government will soon come up with regulatory Instruments that will make responsible technology for Nigerians to benefit from.

“It is so dear to us that we are living in an exciting time of technological advancement, where the science of yesterday is becoming a reality in products and services.

“We are reaching a point where a robot will create a robot, algorithm will create algorithm; a world without scarcity of resources, where every human on earth has access to basic needs like enough food, clean water and so on. With this kind of technology (like Omeife), Nigeria can reach that point.

“Omeife is behaving like a human, but the target is the super-intelligence, whereby the artificial intelligence becomes more intelligent than the human being.

“We have to go with what the new technology (AI) brought, like not going to farms because robots can do that, not driving a car which robots can do, creating furniture, road constructions etc. With AI you can cure terminal diseases, reverse ageing etc.”

While emphasising the government’s commitment to turn things around technologically, the VP described this as a “technology as a double-edged sword. What we need to do as a government is to support our citizens by ensuring that they are digitally visible. We need to get data available for AI to make decisions and connect the unconnected”.

In achieving this, he said, the present administration has redesigned the scope of the ministry, where several plans are put in place like the broadband plan, which is targeted at connecting the unconnected to make sure every Nigerian is digitally visible.

He affirmed the support of the Federal Government for the domestication of the technology and urged the tech community to find measures to ensure that artificial intelligence systems are built according to policies, regulations and laws and the inventions domesticate in line with the Nigerian culture.

On his part, Pantami lauded the effort and foresight of Uniccon Group for the unprecedented achievement.

“We are so excited today, because most of our games (the robots) are not African. Seeing Omeife looking like an African gives me a lot of courage that Nigeria is on the verge of attaining greatness.”

The minister said this and many other initiatives will, in no small measure, assist the country in building technology locally and promoting local cultures and values.

Also, he announced that the government is working on the National Data Strategy which will also help to make data available for everyone because AI is all about data. 

He pledged the government’s readiness to work with Unicorn Group to commercialise the technology.

It could be recalled that the minister introduced Omeife at GITEX in Dubai while complimenting the Uniccon Group’s dedication to playing a significant role in encouraging innovation in Africa.

Omeife, a six-feet tall, multi-lingual robot can speak eight different languages including Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, French, Arabic, Kiswahili, Pidgin, Wazobia Afrikaans and English.

Also, the robot has terrain intelligence, knowing the ground and having stability on the floor, which helps it navigate on non-flat surfaces and maintain good balance. It also has GPS for location and state management for knowing whether the system is standing, walking, talking and so on as well as advanced gestures. It expresses while talking, gives hand illustrations, smiles and makes other bodily gestures.

It can understand shapes and how to hold things. Conversation-wise, it has real-time understanding and can actively listen and focus on a specific conversation thread as it happens.

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