Robotics is not a closed field of science. It is a fascinating and enchanting field that is spreading in the world just like galaxies spread in the universe—constantly.
This means there is no end to this field, just as there is no end to innovation.
With the advent and involvement of artificial intelligence in robotics, this field of science, which once seemed too imaginary to mankind, has taken the greatest leap of all sciences to become an integral part of our present and an even bigger part of our future.
Kudos to our scientists and engineers who took a keen interest in robotics to make this field what it is today. In this article, we will be discussing 11 names whose contributions throughout these years have been milestones in the field of robotics.
Take a look below at the top robotics engineers and scientists you need to know about. These people are pioneers in their fields and have made themselves huge with their help.
Top Robotics Engineers and Scientists of the World:
1. Rodney Brooks:
When it comes to robotics, who can miss Rodney Brooks? His MIT bio defines him as a roboticist, a robotics entrepreneur, CTO, and co-founder of RobustAI, and as the Panasonic Professor of Robotics (emeritus) at MIT, currently working on his Magnum Opus book. Don’t hold your breath!
Last year, he was awarded the prestigious IEEE Founders Medal for his outstanding contributions and leadership in the field of electrical and electronics engineering. The list does not end there. He was also awarded the Fellow of the American Association for the Advancements in Science honor, has been recognized as an ACM Professional Member for outstanding accomplishments in computing and information technology (2005), and has been granted the AAAI fellowship and the IJCAI Computers and Thought Award (in 1991).
In the world of robotics, he is known for his emphasis on physical embodiment and “bottom-up” design. Cynthia Breazeal, who is currently the Director of MIT Media Lab’s Personal Robots Group, focusing on emotional robots and human-robot interaction and exploring the social and ethical implications of robotics, is his student. Dr. Brooks was the founder, chairman, and CTO of Rethink Robotics and was also a founder, former board member (1990–2011), and former CTO (1990–2008) of iRobot Corp.
He was also the former Director (1997–2007) of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and then the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).
2. Marc Raibert:
You have guessed it right. This 74-year-old is the founder of the Boston Dynamics AI Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was the chairperson of Boston Dynamics and will remain one of the best-known names in the robotics industry.
His organization is focused on solving the most important problems in robotics and AI to achieve fundamental advances in engineering and robotics. Raibert is known for groundbreaking robots like Spot and Atlas, pushing the boundaries of robot agility and locomotion.
He was a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and a member of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory from 1986 through 1995.
Raibert’s laboratory at MIT, the Leg Lab, is well known for its work on systems that move dynamically, including legged robots, simulated mechanisms, and animated figures. On social media, he is known as the man who made robots dance.
3. Hiroshi Ishiguro:
This is the man who made a copy of himself. Hiroshi Ishiguro is a Japanese engineer who is a roboticist famous for making human-like robotic systems based on Android. He is known for his eerily realistic Geminoid robots and contributions to social robotics and human-robot interaction.
His IEEE profile describes him as a roboticist at Osaka University, Japan, who has constructed his mechanical doppelgänger using silicone rubber, pneumatic actuators, powerful electronics, and hair from his scalp. By building human-like robots, Ishiguro hopes to decipher what the Japanese call sonzaikan—the feeling of being in the presence of a human being. At present, Ishiguro is the director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, part of the Department of Systems Innovation at the Graduate School of Engineering Science at Osaka University, Japan. He was born on October 23, 1963.
Ishiguro has pursued this vision of robotics by creating other androids, such as Repliee Q2, a self-aware robot capable of singing Disney songs, and Repliee R1, an android identical to a 4-year-old girl.
4. Maja J. Mataric:
If you wish to know about someone renowned for research in human-robot interaction and social robotics, emphasizing social intelligence and embodiment, it has to be Maja J. Mataric.
She is credited with developing robots that learn through interaction and adapt to social cues. Maja Matarić is the Chan Soon-Shiong Chair and Distinguished Professor of Computer Science, with appointments in Neuroscience, and Pediatrics at the University of Southern California (USC), and a Principal Scientist at Google DeepMind.
She is a pioneer in the field of socially assistive robotics, which has its eyes only on developing personalized human-robot interaction methods for behavior change aimed at health, wellness, rehabilitation, training, and education. She has also been an ACM and AAAI fellow in 2021 and 22019,respectively. In 2010, she was granted a fellowship at IEEE as well.
5. David Hanson
He is the man responsible for the creation of Sophia, one of the most advanced humanoid robots created to date. Hong Kong-based company Hanson Robotics activated her in April 2015.
Sophia made her first public appearance at the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in March 2016 in Austin, Texas, United States. She was also granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia. Dr. David Franklin Hanson (Jr) is the founder of Hanson Robotics. He worked as a Walt Disney Imagineer, both a sculptor and a technical consultant in robotics, and later founded his own company, Hanson Robotics, in 2013.
6. Hans Moravec:
A prominent robotics researcher and author, Moravec’s work on mobile robots, navigation, and sensor fusion laid the foundation for autonomous vehicles and robot perception in complex environments.
Hans Moravec was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute who caused a lot of consternation with the book “Mind Children: The Future of the Robot and Human Intelligence.” In this book, he predicts the rise of machines and the extinction of humans.
This was enough to create commotion in the robotics industry. He is an adjunct faculty member at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, USA, and the co-founder of Seegrid Corporation, which is a robotics company trying to develop autonomous robots possessing navigating capabilities.
7. Ichiro Kato
This man is the reason we have modern robots today. Ichiro Kato of Waseda University created WABOT-1 using his studies of medicine and humanoid robots back in 1972. This was the first full-scale intelligent robot that was humanoid in structure. WABOT-1 came complete with two arms, could walk on two legs, and used a pair of cameras to see.
Now-late Professor Ichiro Kato is known as the “father of Japanese robotics research.”.
He began pursuing robotics and launched a cross-disciplinary project called the WABOT which is short for Waseda Robot Project, in the 1970’s. It developed a large number of humanoid robots as the university’s flagship project. His contributions can be listed as the major milestones in the robotics industry.
8. Jacob Matijevic and Donna Shirley:
It is most important to name these two together, as they are the roboticists whose achievement is to send robots to Mars. Dr. Matijevic was involved in developing the “Sojourner,” “Spirit,” “Opportunity,” and “Curiosity” rovers.
The world lost Jake Matijevic on August 20, 2012. NASA honored him by naming several landmarks on Mars after him. “Matijevic Hill” and “Jake Matijevic” rock are some of the landmarks named after him.
Donna Shirley was the former manager of Mars exploration at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). She led teams responsible for projects like Mars Pathfinder and Sojourner, the first rover to successfully explore the Martian surface. Her leadership on the Cassini mission to Saturn paved the way for increased representation of women in leadership roles within the agency.
9. Takeo Kanade:
He is one of the best in this field of robotics. Takeo Kanade built the world’s first direct-drive robotic arm in 1981. He is known for his contributions to computer vision and robotics. Kanade’s work on robot sensing, manipulation, and perception established fundamental principles for robot vision systems across various applications. He is presently a special fellow at the Advanced Industrial Science and Technology Institute in Tokyo. As per his LinkedIn profile, he conducts research and development of industrial technologies, particularly digital humans—measuring and modeling human functions there.
He is a U.A. and Helen Whitaker Professor at the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science. Did you know he developed one of the first His award list includes:
· Kyoto Prize (2016)
· Bowers Prize (2008)
· NAE Member (1997)
10. Cynthia Breazeal:
Cynthia Breazeal is a professor of media arts and sciences at MIT, where she founded and directs the Personal Robots group at the Media Lab. She is the MIT dean for digital learning, and in this role, she leverages her experience in emerging digital technologies and business, research, and strategic initiatives to lead Open Learning’s business research and engagement units.
Cynthia is known for her research in human-robot interaction and robotics for education and therapy. Her robots engage with people in playful and socially aware ways. She is also the Director of the MIT-wide Initiative on Responsible AI for Social Empowerment and Education (raise.mit.edu).
11. Joe Jones:
He is the discoverer of Roomba, the home cleaning robot. In short, he is responsible for bringing robots to the houses of the common man. Roomba was released in 2002 by iRobot.
His robot had a series of sensors that made it navigate through the spaces of homes to perform the programmed cleaning activities. Joe started out researching small robots at the MIT AI Lab and had an idea of home cleaning robots. He said, “I got excited about the really small, reactive robots and thought, You can do a lot with this. You could build a robot that could clean your floors.”
While working at Denning Mobile Robotics, he and Jack Shimek designed a proof-of-concept for what later became Roomba. However, after being fired from there, he pitched the idea to iRobots, which readily accepted the idea and transformed it into reality.
Readers must remember that this is just a glimpse into the vast and dynamic landscape of robotics. Many other brilliant scientists and engineers deserve recognition for their contributions. After all, it is a 100-year-old field of science. The best way to learn more is to explore as many research papers, conference proceedings, and the work of these and other experts in the field as possible.
Joseph Endgelberger is widely credited with the birth of the industrial robotics industry.
George D. Devol is known as the inventor of the first programmable industrial robot. He conceived, designed, built, and patented the world’s first programmable industrial robot.
Ichiro Kato built the world’s first real Android robot. He created the world’s first full-scale humanoid ‘intelligent’ robot, WABOT-1, in 1972.
Takeo Kanade built the world’s first direct-drive robotic arm in 1981. This arm contained all of its motors within the robot assembly.