It's important to know where we've come from, but it's also important to know where we are now, and where we're heading.
Cynthia Breazeal is an Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she founded and directs the Personal Robots Group at the Media Lab. She is a pioneer of social robotics and Human Robot Interaction. She has authored the book Designing Sociable Robots, has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles in journals and conferences on the topics of autonomous robotics, artificial intelligence, human robot interaction, and robot learning. She serves on several editorial boards in the areas of autonomous robots, affective computing, entertainment technology and multi-agent systems. She is also a member of the advisory board for the Science Channel and an Overseer at the Museum of Science, Boston.
(source: MIT Media Lab)
Breazeal was uniquely suited to the task of building this new robot. She grew up near the technology-rich area that would become Silicon Valley. Her father was a mathematician and her mother a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Her parents raised her, she says, to be "protechnology." Breazeal became captivated by robots at age 8 when she saw Star Wars for the first time. "I just fell in love with the Droids," she says, especially R2-D2. "But I was old enough to realize those kinds of robots didn't exist." Growing up, she considered becoming a doctor and an astronaut. But she never gave up her interest in robots. When she studied astronomy, she was particularly intrigued by lunar rovers, which are really just a specialized form of robot. After graduating from the University of California at Santa Barbara, Breazeal went to M.I.T. in the early 1990s to become part of one of the world's most innovative robotics labs.
"Ever since I was a little girl seeing "Star Wars" for the first time, I've been fascinated by this idea of personal robots. And as a little girl, I loved the idea of a robot that interacted with us much more like a helpful, trusted sidekick -- something that would delight us, enrich our lives and help us save a galaxy or two. I knew robots like that didn't really exist, but I knew I wanted to build them."You had me at Star Wars.
Breazeal is recognized as a designer and innovator on the national and global stage. She received the Gilbreth Lectures Award by the National Academy of Engineering in 2008. She has spoken at a number of prominent global events including the World Science Festival, the World Economic Forum, and TEDWomen. Breazeal is a featured scientist in the Women's Adventures in Science series (sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences). In 2003, Breazeal was recognized as a Finalist in the National Design Awards in Communication at the White House.
She is an Overseer at the Museum of Science in Boston, and she is on the Board of Advisors of the Science Channel.
She also has a prominent role as a virtual participant in a popular exhibit on robots with the traveling exhibit, Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination, interacting with a real C-3PO (voiced by Anthony Daniels as she spoke to the audience through a pre-recorded message displayed on a large plasma flat-screen display.
In 2003, she was named to the MIT Technology Review TR100 as one of the top 100 innovators in the world under the age of 35.