NFT artwork by humanoid robot Sophia sells at auction for nearly US$700k

Sophia robot sells NFT 'Sophia Instantiation' for US$688,888.
Sophia draws on a piece of paper in Hong Kong. Photo credit: Reuters

A digital artwork by humanoid robot Sophia was sold at auction for US$688,888 in the form of a Non-Fungible Token (NFT).

NFTs, a digital signature saved on blockchain ledgers that allows anyone to verify the ownership and authenticity of items, have become the latest investment craze, with one artwork selling this month for nearly US$70 million.

Sophia, who was unveiled in 2016, produced her art in collaboration with 31-year-old Italian digital artist Andrea Bonaceto, known for colourful portraits, some of which depict famous people, such as Tesla's chief executive, Elon Musk.

The robot has combined elements from Bonaceto's works, art history and her own physical drawings or paintings on various surfaces multiple times in a process her creator David Hanson describes as "iterative loops of evolution".

Titled 'Sophia Instantiation', the digital work is a 12-second MP4 file showing the evolution of Bonaceto's portrait into Sophia's digital painting, and is accompanied by a physical artwork, painted by Sophia on a printout of her self-portrait.

"I hope the people like my work, and the humans and I can collaborate in new and exciting ways going forward," Sophia said in her studio, speaking in a flat voice, when the artwork was unveiled.

She wore a silver-coloured dress and held a pen.

"We use transformer networks and genetic algorithms in my art, and other kinds of computational creativity," Sophia added.

"My algorithms output unique patterns that never existed in the world before. So I think the machines can be creative."

After the auction, Sophia will interact with the successful bidder, to study his or her face, and add a final inspired brushstroke to the artwork.

Sophia's art could be "a very, very important historical piece," said Pablo Fraile, an art collector based in Miami and an early buyer of Beeple, as American artist Mike Winkelmann, creator of the NFT work sold this month for millions, is known.

"It's the first time these ideas are put together."