David Hanson develops robots that are widely
regarded as the world’s most human-like in appearance,
in a lifelong quest to create true living, caring
machines. To accomplish these goals, Hanson
integrates gurative arts with cognitive science and
robotics engineering, inventions novel skin materials,
facial expression mechanisms, and collaborative
developments in AI, within humanoid artworks like
Sophia the robot, which can engage people in
naturalistic face-to-face conversations and currently
serve in AI research, education, therapy, and other
Hanson worked as a Walt Disney Imagineer, both a
sculptor and a technical consultant in robotics, and
later founded Hanson Robotics. As a researcher,
Hanson published dozens of papers in materials
science, articial intelligence, cognitive science, and
robotics journals — including SPIE, IEEE, the International
Journal of Cognitive Science, IROS, AAAI, AI
magazine and more. He wrote two books including
“Humanizing Robots” and received several patents.
Hanson was featured in the New York Times, Popular
Science, Scientic American, WIRED, BBC and CNN.
He also received earned awards from NASA, NSF,
Tech Titans’ Innovator of the Year, RISD, Cooper
Hewitt Design Triennial, and the co-received the
2005 AAAI rst place prize for open interaction of an
AI system. Hanson holds a Ph.D. in Interactive Arts
and Technology from the University of Texas at
Dallas, and a BFA in lm Animation video from the
Rhode Island School of Design.
David Hanson Jr. is an American roboticist who is the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of
Hanson Robotics, a Hong Kong-based robotics company founded in 2013.
The designer and researcher creates human-looking robots who have realistic facial expressions.
He is mainly known for Hanson Robotics, the company that created Sophia and other robots designed to
mimic human behavior. Sophia has received widespread media attention, and was the first robot to be
Hanson was born in on December 20, 1969 in Dallas, Texas, United States. He studied at Highland Park
High School for his senior year to focus on math and science. As a teenager, Hanson’s hobbies included
drawing and reading science fiction works by writers like Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick—the latter of
whom he would later replicate in android form.
Hanson has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design in film/animation/video, and a
Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Dallas in interactive arts and engineering. In 1995 as part of an
independent-study project on out-of-body experiences, he built a humanoid head in his own likeness,
operated by a remote operator.
Hanson’s dissertation was entitled Development of an Advanced Respirator Fit-Test Headform .
Early life and education
“Albert Hubo” a robot created by
Hanson and the KAIST Hubo group
Hanson’s career has focused on creating humanlike robots. Hanson’s most well-known creation is
Sophia, the world’s first ever robot citizen.
In 2004 at a Denver American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference, Hanson
presented K-Bot, a robotic head created with polymer skin, finely sculpted features, and big blue eyes.
Named after his lab assistant Kristen Nelson, the robot head had 24 servomotors for realistic movement
and cameras in its eyes. At the time he was 33 years old and a graduate student at the University of Texas
After he graduated from university, Hanson worked as an artist, and went on to work for Disney where he
was a sculptor and material researcher in the Disney Imagineering Lab. He has worked as a designer,
sculptor, and robotics developer for Universal Studios and MTV. In 2004, Hanson built the humanoid
robot Hertz, a female presenting animated robot head that took about nine months to build.
Hanson is the founder and CEO of Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics, which was founded in 2013.
Hanson has been published in materials science, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and robotics
Hanson argues precise human looks are a must if people are going to effectively communicate with
robots. Hanson believes social humanoid robots have the potential to serve humanity in a variety of
functions and helping roles, like tutor, companion, or security guard. He argues the realism of his work
has the potential to pose “an identity challenge to the human being,” and that realistic robots may
polarize the market between those who love realistic robots and those who find them disturbing. Many
of Hanson’s creations currently serve at research or non-profit institutions around the world, including at
the University of Cambridge, University of Geneva, University of Pisa and in laboratories for cognitive
science and AI research.
Hanson’s creation Zeno, a two-foot tall robot designed in the style of a cartoon boy, provides treatment
sessions to children with autism in Texas as a result of a collaboration between the University of Texas at
Arlington, Dallas Autism Treatment Center, Texas Instruments and National Instruments, and Hanson.
Other robots include Albert Einstein HUBO, a robotic head designed to look like Albert Einstein’s and put
it on top of the “HUBO” bipedal robotic frame, and Professor Einstein, a 14.5 inch personal robot that
engages in conversation and acts as a companion/tutor.
Hanson collaborated with musician David Byrne on Song for Julio, which appeared at the Reina Sofia
Museum in Madrid in 2008 as part of the Máquinas&Almas (Souls&Machines) exhibit, and his creations
have appeared in other museums around the world.
From 2011 to 2013 Hanson was an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Teaching at
the University of Texas at Arlington. He also taught in 2010 at the University of North Texas as an adjunct
professor in fine arts, kinetic/interactive sculpture, and at the University of Texas at Dallas as an instructor
of independent study in interactive sculpture.
Hanson has keynote speeches at leading international technology conferences such as the Consumer
Electronics Show and IBC.
Additional media appearances:
CNBC: World’s first robot citizen is calling for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia
Fortune: Robot Developer Warns Artificial Intelligence Developments Could Lead to Catastrophe
Business Insider, Meet Sophia, the world’s first robot citizen
The 2016 documentary film, Machine of Human Dreams
Humanizing Robots: How making humanoids can make us more human , Sep 2, 2017 by David
The Coming Robot Revolution: Expectations and Fears About Emerging Intelligent, Humanlike
Machines , Feb 27, 2009, by Yoseph Bar-Cohen and David Hanson
Humanizing Interfaces– an Integrative Analysis of HumanLike Robots: David Hanson’s Doctoral
Dissertation at the University of Texas at Dallas , Interactive … and Engineering, Ph.D. received in 2007.
Jun 4, 2017, by David Hanson
Public and media appearances
Hanson, D., Mazzei, D., Garver, C., De Rossi, D., Stevenson, M., ”Realistic Humanlike Robots for Treatment
of ASD, Social Training, and Research; Shown to Appeal to Youths with ASD, Cause Physiological
Arousal, and Increase Human-to-Human Social Engagement”, PETRA (PErvasive Technologies Related to
Assistive Environment), 2012.
Mazzei, D., Lazzeri, N., Hanson, D., De Rossi, D. “HEFES: An Hybrid Engine for Facial Expressions
Synthesis to Control Human-Like Androids and Avatars”, The Fourth IEEE RAS/EMBS International
Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics, 2012.
Bergman, M., Zhuang, Z., Palmiero, A., Wander, J., Heimbuch, B., McDonald, M., Hanson, D.,
“Development of an Advanced Respirator Fit Test Headform”, AIHce in Indianapolis, IN, 2012.
Hanson D., Baurmann S., Riccio T., Margolin R., Dockins T., Tavares M., Carpenter, K., “Zeno: a Cognitive
Character”, AI Magazine, and special Proc. of AAAI National Conference, Chicago, 2009.
Tadesse, Yonas; Priya, Shashank; Stephanou, Harry; Popa, Dan. and Hanson, David “Piezoelectric
actuation and sensing for Facial Robotics” Journal of Ferroelectrics, vol. 345, Issue1, pp.13–25, 2006 (12
Hanson D., Bergs R., Tadesse Y., White V., Priya S. “Enhancement of EAP Actuated Facial Expressions by
Designed Chamber Geometry in Elastomers”, Proc. SPIE‘s Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices
Conf., 10TH Smart Structures and Materials Symposium, San Diego, USA, 2006 .
Hanson D. “Expanding the Aesthetics Possibilities for Humanlike Robots”, Proc. IEEE Humanoid Robotics
Conference, special session on the Uncanny Valley; Tskuba, Japan, December 2005.
Hanson D. “Bioinspired Robotics”, chapter 16 in the book Biomimetics, ed. Yoseph Bar- Cohen, CRC
Press, October 2005.
Hanson D., White V. “Converging the Capabilities of ElectroActive Polymer Artificial Muscles and the
Requirements of Bio-inspired Robotics”, Proc. SPIE‘s Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices Conf.,
10TH Smart Structures and Materials Symposium, San Diego, USA, 2004.
Hanson D., “Chapter 18: Applications for Electrically Actuated Polymer Actuators,” in Electrically
Actuated Polymer Actuators as Artificial Muscles, Bar-Cohen Y. (Ed.) SPIE PRESS, Washington, USA, Vol.
PM98, 2nd ed. March 2004.
Hanson, D. “Bio-inspired Facial Expression Interface for Emotive Robots”, Proc. AAAI National
Conference in Edmonton, CA, 2002.
Hanson D. and Pioggia G., “Entertainment Applications for Electrically Actuated Polymer Actuators,” Ch
18 of Electrically Actuated Polymer Actuators as Artificial Muscles, SPIE PRESS, Washington, USA, Vol.
PM98, Ch. 18, 2001.
1. “Saudi Arabia Just Granted Citizenship to a Robot” . Fortune. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
2. “David Hanson brings robots to life – THNK” . THNK. 2011-03-24. Archived from the original on
2017-12-22. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
3. “The Man Who Mistook His Girlfriend for a Robot” . Popular Science. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
David Hanson at TED
4. ” ‘Meet the Future’ at a Feb. 28 Ubben Lecture Featuring David Hanson and His Robot Creation,
Sophia – DePauw University” . DePauw University. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
5. “Alumnus Creates Robotics Company – Corporate Relations – The University of Texas at Dallas” .
www.utdallas.edu. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
6. Hanson, David (2018-12-05). “David Hanson Resume” (PDF). hansonrobotics.com.
7. “Can robots look all too human?” . msnbc.com. 2004-02-02. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
8. Walcutt, Leif. “The Contrived Likeness Of Humanoid Robots” . Forbes. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
9. ” ‘Meet the Future’ at a Feb. 28 Ubben Lecture Featuring David Hanson and His Robot Creation,
Sophia – DePauw University” . DePauw University. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
10. “Scientists try to make robots more human – USATODAY.com” . usatoday30.usatoday.com. Retrieved
11. “David Hanson creates robots with human faces | EarthSky.org” . earthsky.org. Retrieved
12. “How Robots are Helping Children with Autism” . NDTV Food. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
13. “Einstein Robot ‘Albert Hubo’ Physicist Back To Life (VIDEO)” . HuffPost Canada. 2010-03-18.
14. ENGINEERING.com. “Hanson Robotics Develops Professor Einstein, Your Personal Genius >
ENGINEERING.com” . www.engineering.com. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
15. “El robot de David Byrne” . El Pais (in Spanish). 30 June 2008. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
16. “Robots steal the show at CES 2017” . 2017-01-07. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
17. Caranicas, Peter (2017-09-13). “New Technology at IBC Leads the Way to the Future of Content” .
Variety. Retrieved 2017-12-20.