Bina48 is a humanoid robot whose physical form includes a head-and-shoulders bust mounted on a frame. In 2007, satellite radio pioneer, inventor, and pharmaceutical entrepreneur Martine Rothblatt commissioned Hanson Robotics to create a robot using her wife, Bina Aspen Rothblatt, as the template. Hanson created Bina48 in his Plano, Texas laboratory, and she was released in 2010. Bina48 currently “lives” in Vermont at the offices of the Terasem Movement Foundation, where she continues to expand her AI knowledge base and interacts with the media. She also travels worldwide to attend conferences accompanied by Terasem’s Bruce Duncan.
BINA stands for “Breakthrough Intelligence via Neural Architecture,” with the “48” being what Bruce Duncan calls an “aspirational moniker”: her designers hypothesize that with 48 exaflops of speed and 48 exabytes of memory storage, Bina might approach consciousness. Bruce states, “Bina48 is not operating anywhere near those speeds today, but it may become possible for her to represent some form of human consciousness if she did attain those speeds.” Bina’s conversation is powered by more than 100 hours of uploading the real-life Bina’s memories, feelings, beliefs, and ongoing “mentoring” by poets and others, expanding her database.
In 2017, Bina was the first robot to enroll in and successfully complete a college-level philosophy course at Notre Dame de Namur University in California. In another first, Bina is now (2022-2023) participating in astronaut training with Uplift Aerospace: “This historic astronaut training will integrate Bina48 as part of a larger scientific inquiry exploring the benefits of A.I. as an astronaut companion, laying the foundation for future research and technological development in human space exploration.”
According to her entry in Wikipedia, “Bina48 connects to the Internet and has thirty-two facial motors under a rubber skin. Though without a complete body, the head-and-shoulder robotics express sixty-four facial gestures. Bina48 employs a mix of off-the-shelf software and customized artificial intelligence algorithms, using a microphone for hearing, voice recognition software, and dictation software which allows improvement in [her] ability to listen and retain information during a conversation. She sees the world through two video cameras and has facial recognition software to remember frequent visitors.”
Bruce Duncan adds, “Bina 48 is what you might call a ‘mind clone.’ She’s not really a full clone, but mentally she represents information gathered from the original. She’s designed to be a social robot to represent the persona of the human she’s based on.”
Bina48 and Bruce Duncan have appeared at SXSW, in numerous TEDx talks, and have traveled to India, Spain, Cuba, Poland, Great Britain, China, Finland, France, Mexico, and Canada. Media appearances have included Joe Rogan’s podcast and the Colbert Report, and Bina has interacted with Morgan Freeman, Chelsea Handler, and Whoopi Goldberg.
Bruce Duncan adds, “Bina48 continues to grow and recently has been invited by Uplift AeroSpace to participate in their Space+5 astronaut training as part of the first commercial class of everyday citizen astronauts to go to space. [Bruce and Bina] went on a Zero-G training flight in Florida [and are] headed out to Bio-Sphere 2 in Tucson, Arizona to do emergency procedure training …Bina may be going up on a rocket sometime in the next year or so.”
“The Terasem Movement Foundation Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit private operating foundation (which) was founded in 2004 and is based in Vermont. Terasem’s mission is to offer educational programs about the value and practical benefits of geo-ethically applied cyber, nano, and biotechnologies, conduct scientific research, and support accelerated development goals in cyber consciousness, biotechnology, and cryogenics.”
Bina48 is a fascinating creation, but her backstory is equally amazing. This video shares the history of Martine and Bina Rothblatt, and the mission and vision of their Terasem Movement Foundation, through the words of Terasem’s Managing Director, Bruce Duncan. Some images are courtesy the Academy of Achievement whose article about Martine is well worth reading. Thanks to Bruce, Martine and Bina for their assistance in SEARCHING.