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Is this the world's first unbiased recruitment robot?

Swedish recruiters are currently testing out the ‘world’s first’ unbiased recruitment robot, which utilises Artificial Intelligence (AI) to carry out truly equality-focused job interviews.

The head-shaped robot, which creators named Tengai, measures 41cm tall, and weighs 35kg, sitting at eye level with the prospective candidate. A projected face reacts to comments made through a microphone and is capable of responding via an attached speaker.

The digital recruiter is the creation of Furhat Robotics, an AI and social robotics company based in Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology. The firm spent four years developing both the software and hardware utilised in Tengai.

The creators also ensured that Tengai is capable of fluently mimicking human speech and intricate facial expressions. Chief Scientist Gabriel Skantze told the BBC that:

“It feels much less scary or strange compared to a more traditional robot”.

In 2018 Furhat Robotics initiated a new partnership with one of Sweden's largest recruitment firms TNG, with whom it initiated work on Tengai’s recruitment skills.

"It typically takes about seven seconds for someone to make a first impression and about five to 15 minutes for a recruiter to make a decision. We want to challenge that," explains Elin Öberg Mårtenzon, Chief Innovation Officer at TNG's office in central Stockholm.

"For example, if I ask you a question at the beginning of the process like: 'Do you play golf?' and you say: 'Yes I do, I love playing golf', and I do too, then in some way, I will put that in a positive box," adds Mårtenzon.

In comparison, Tengai is programmed to denounce all pre-conceived biases and instead focuses on the aspects of the candidate’s interview that would make them suitable for the role.

However, similar schemes by global tech giants such as Google have proved to be unsuccessful in the past. In 2018 Google confirmed that its AI recruitment robot was being decommissioned due to evidence that suggested that despite its equality parameters, it still favoured male candidates over females.

Amazon encountered a similar issue with its machine-learning recruitment AI. The team that was tasked with building the robot since 2014 programmed it to analyse candidates and collate a score out of five for suitability. The project came to an end when scientists realised that the machine was consistently offering higher scores to males.

Furhat Robotics believes that the solution to this is integrating learning from a host of different sources. "It's learning from several different recruiters, so it doesn't pick up the specific behaviour of one recruiter," explains the start-up's chief scientist, Gabriel Skantze.

Will Tengia be interviewing you any time soon?

Whilst the project continues to yield positive results, Tengai is yet to be trialled in a real recruitment drives. In May, her abilities will be put to the test, with a tentative roll-out date of early 2020.