D’Youville University’s AI-Powered Commencement Speech By Humanoid Robot Sophia Draws Mixed Reactions

D’Youville University in Buffalo, New York, broke new ground on Saturday by having Sophia, a humanoid robot developed by Hanson Robotics, deliver the commencement address at its spring graduation ceremony.

In the lead-up to the event, a group of students launched an online petition, “Replace T 2024 A.I. commencement speaker: Petition to Preserve Human Connection,” which garnered nearly 2,000 signatures.

University officials, however, stood by their decision, noting that inviting Sophia aligned with the school’s annual developmental theme, which focused on artificial intelligence this year. D’Youville University President Lorrie Clemo stated, “A major role of higher education is to be an incubator for innovation and to prepare students for both the opportunities and challenges of the future.”

Sophia wore a college hoodie and engaged in an interview-style discussion with Student Government Association President John Rizk. The robot gave a pretty standard graduation speech, offering some life advice to students and encouraging them as they went off into the work world.

Overall, the speech was a bit less robotic than many universities will have this year, and much less inspirational than other students will attend. While it wasn’t the best speech of the year, it certainly held the crowd’s attention.