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AI Company Defends Robot After It's Accused of Groping Woman On Camera

Talk to the Hand

A Saudi humanoid robot was captured groping a female reporter on camera — and the company behind it is defending its behavior.

In an interview with the British tabloid Metro, QSS, the AI firm behind the humanoid robot in question, said that it had warned attendees of the DeepFest conference in Riyadh not to stand too close to "Android Muhammad."

In the video, the so-called android is seen decked out in the white thobe tunic and keffiyah headscarf that's part of the national dress code as it stands beside another, female-attired robot wearing a traditional headscarf. In front of the robotic pair stood two reporters, one female and one male. As a short clip of the incident shows, the Muhammad robot seems very much to be reaching toward the female journalist and briefly lifting up the back of her blazer.

That reporter, Al-Arabiya's Rawya Kassem, is seen opening her eyes wide in surprise and turning around to look at the robot before putting her palm out toward it in a "stop" motion.

https://twitter.com/MeghUpdates/status/1765325222247645335

Big Misunderstanding

In a statement to Metro, QSS said that it was possible that the robot, which is supposedly built to help out in hazardous situations, had been attempting to encourage Kassem to step forward on the stage — a move that would have led to her falling off the short pedestal on which the demonstration was taking place.

The company added that it had "proactively informed all attendees, including reporters, to maintain a safe distance from the robot during its demonstration," suggesting that if anyone got touched, it was their own fault.

"We have already conducted a thorough review of the footage and the circumstances surrounding the incident and there [were] no deviations from expected behavior," the company told Metro in its statement, "however we will take additional measures to prevent anyone getting close to the Robot within its areas of movement."

Internal investigations that find no instances of impropriety and warnings about toxic "male" behavior are, of course, commonplace in allegations of sexual misconduct — and now, apparently, they can apparently be applied to the world of robotics as well.

More on weird robots: NYPD Fires Useless Robot