Humanoid Robot Inappropriately Touches Female Reporter in Saudi Arabia

By: Lauren Wurth | Published: Mar 26, 2024

For decades, the idea that robots would one day roam among us, look like us, talk like us, and even think like us, was considered only as a plot for a science-fiction movie. But as of 2024, this is becoming our reality.

Humanoid robots are here, and while they most often appear in the news when discussing the future of AI or job security, in this case, one such robot is making headlines for inappropriately touching a female reporter.

The Story of Muhammad the Robot’s Bad Behavior

Muhammad the humanoid robot made his first public appearance last week at DeepFest in Riyadh. Dressed in traditional Saudi garb, the extremely human-like machine stood on stage with two reporters for all the world to see.

Muhammad the humanoid robot answering questions from reporters into a microphone

Source: @The Free Press Journal/YouTube

But as Muhammad was answering the reporters’ questions, he did something wildly inappropriate: He reached out and touched the female reporter’s backside.

The Touch Seen Around the World

In the days since the incident, video clips and photographs of Muhammad the robot’s unprofessional and tactless assault have spread like wildfire. At this point, there are very few people who haven’t seen it.

Black and white photograph of Muhammad the humanoid robot touching the backside of a female reporter on stage

Source: @The Free Press Journal/YouTube

As always, the internet has responded in a variety of ways. Some say it was clearly an accident but others argue it looked quite intentional. But the biggest question on most people’s minds is whether Muhammad actually has the capacity as a “man” to even have desires, let alone act on them.

The Creators of Muhammad

Muhammad the robot was designed and built by the Saudi tech company QSS AI & Robotics after they had terrific success with their first humanoid robot, Sara. Both robots are bilingual and can speak Arabic and English just as well as any human being.

Linkedin profile for the QSS AI & Robotics tech company

Source: @QSS AI & Robotics/Linkedin

Not to mention the fact that they truly do look like humans, albeit with slightly less facial expressions and fluid body movements.

QSS Claims Muhammad Was Acting All on His Own

One of the first questions to arise after the incident was whether anyone on the QSS team was controlling, even marginally, the actions and words of Muhammad while he was on stage.

Photograph of Muhammad the humanoid robot from QSS AI & Robotics

Source: @deepfestai/X

But QSS claims that the robot is “fully autonomous” and is only running on his preinstalled programming, not by any human intervention.

Muhammad Didn’t Do Anything Wrong

The team at QSS has also reported that, after watching the clip of Muhammad’s indiscretion several times and analyzing his movements, they can confirm that there were “no deviations from expected behavior.”

Illustration of the brain of a robot connected to wires

Source: Adobe Stock

Essentially, Muhammad had been programmed to move his arms and hands while speaking in order to appear more human-like, and the reporter’s backside was just in the way.


QSS Says They Warned Reporters Not to Stand Too Close

The excitement of talking to one of the first ever humanoid robots was likely both exciting and unsettling for the two reporters on stage.

A humanoid robot smiles at the camera as a human man stands beside it

Source: Shutterstock

Which may be why, as QSS explained, they did not follow the tech company’s instructions on how to interact with Muhammad. Their staff supposedly “proactively informed all attendees, including reporters, to maintain a safe distance from the robot during its demonstration.” But clearly, one reporter was simply too close.


For Now, QSS Wants Everyone to Stay Out of the Robot’s Area of Movement

The team at QSS said that, while they don’t believe Muhammad did anything wrong or concerning on stage that day, they will implement “additional measures to prevent anyone getting close to the Robot within its areas of movement” in the future.

A robotic hand reaches out as a human hand does the same to touch

Source: Freepik

So, while it’s likely that Muhammad and Sara, QSS’ other humanoid robot, will both continue to make appearances in the near future, no person will be able to stand near them and certainly won’t be touching them.


Muhammad’s Story Has Reignited a Much More Important Conversation

Understanding that Muhammad was not hitting on or uncontrollably attracted to the female reporter, but instead, was naturally moving his arm in a way that just happened to hit her backside, is a relief for many.

Several human-like robots make gestures

Source: Linkedin

However, this story has ignited a long discussed conversation regarding the safety of robots, and maybe even more importantly, the tangible effects they will have on our daily lives.


A Robot War Isn’t Likely

Over the past few decades, dozens of movies have been made based on the premise that robots will soon become just as smart or even smarter than human beings and proceed to take over the world.

Digital illustration of a giant robot fighting an army of humans

Source: Playground

As of 2024, that fear is still wildly unfounded. Robots are nowhere near igniting a global war to reign supreme. However, their real threat may be even scarier.


Robots Could Take Over Millions of Jobs... and Soon

It has become increasingly clear the more terrifying aspect to robots is that they can and will take the jobs of millions of people, leaving a large percentage of the population without income.

Several robots sit in a row typing on computers

Source: Linkedin

From packaging to cleaning, writing, editing, coding, serving food, driving a car or even a plane, there may be nothing a human can do better than a robot.


AI Is Just the Beginning

Luckily, it will still be years, if not decades, until there are enough humanoid robots with the capabilities of taking over the workforce in any real way.

Several coworkers look at a computer screen together that is using AI

Source: Freepik

That being said, AI has already made a dent in many industries, and it will likely continue to do so and even expand its reach in the coming years. It may be safe to say that between AI platforms and humanoid robots, humans have plenty to worry about without adding a scandalous robot in the mix.