June 03, 2015

IdeaPaint celebrates Cynthia Breazeal for being a badass robot scientist extraordinaire.

Specialist in human-robot interaction sounds like a made up job description. In a way, it is. As a pioneer in her field – pretty much the pioneer in her field – Dr. Cynthia Breazeal continues to define what the realm of social robotics even entails.

Her work with artificial intelligence explores ways to move beyond a command/response relationship with computers. In effect, it posits there is no true artificial intelligence without artificial emotion. Kismet, the product of her famed doctoral thesis, was an industry benchmark, proof that robots could, in fact, learn social behavior. Now helming the Personal Robots Group at MIT, she continues to break ground in making something inherently not human, seem human.

Her most visionary insight is that building a robot that acts human is, in fact, essential. Her foresight of their role in the future, and her continued belief in the, "dream of the robot sidekick," are reliant on the ability of robots to react, express, and learn like humans. To perform their projected roles in improving our quality of life, they can't rely on explicit commands, they will need to anticipate and mimic our needs and feelings. And astoundingly, she is showing us that it's possible.

So someday, maybe not too far off, your robot friend will give you a much-needed hug. And now you'll know why.

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