The following article is a Q&A interview conducted by Joanne Pransky of Industrial Robot Journal as a method to impart the combined technological, business and personal experience of a prominent robotic industry engineer-turned successful innovator and leader regarding the challenges of bringing technological discoveries to fruition. The paper aims to discuss these issues.
The interviewee is Daniel Theobald, Co-Founder of Vecna Robotics. Vecna Robotics is a recognized global leader in next-generation robotics and automation solutions, with over 20 years of experience in developing cost-effective solutions in the fields of healthcare, education, business, government, material handling and beyond. In this interview, Theobald shares how his mission to empower humanity through transformative technologies led him to co-found and grow the profitable, privately funded Vecna to a 200-employee company that includes an extensive network of global partners and serves a worldwide customer base, without taking outside investment.
Theobald received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT. Graduating at the top of his class, Theobald received the Henry Ford II Scholar Award, the Hertz Foundation Award and a fellowship from the National Science Foundation. Through his graduate work at the MIT AI Laboratory, he developed web-based control algorithms for a robotic Mars explorer, a progenitor of the NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity. He served as Principal Investigator for many projects funded by DARPA, NIH, TATRC, US ARMY, ONR and many more. Theobald co-founded Vecna along with other MIT engineers in 1998 on the idea that people matter and that businesses can be profitable, ethical and socially responsible. The company motto “Better Technology, Better World” reflects Theobald’s philosophy that impact is the yardstick by which success is measured.
A humanistic roboticist and ethical innovator, Theobald has decades of experience in leading research scientists and teams of engineers in developing cutting-edge robotics technology. He has over 70 patents issued and pending. He invented and developed several robots, including the famous Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot (BEAR), the QC Bot logistics solution and industrial logistics platforms. Theobald/Vecna awards include RBR50 Company Award, winner of the DHL and Dell Robotics Innovation Challenge, Mass Technology Leadership Council Award, Team Massachusetts Economic Impact Award, Northrop Grumman Information Systems Annual Suppliers Excellence Award and the Tibbetts Award for Exceptional Innovation. He is the creator of the Convenient Care Model, which suggests that patients who have a more convenient healthcare experience will act more responsibly and will make better health decisions for themselves. In 2014, he co-founded and is currently president of MassRobotics, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the global advancement of the robotics industry. He also co-created VecnaCares, a Vecna charity that is dedicated to improving health outcomes and access to quality care around the world. Under Theobald’s leadership, Vecna has performed over 170,000 hours of community service.
Pransky, J. (2019), "The Pransky interview: Daniel Theobald, Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer, Vecna Robotics", Industrial Robot, Vol. 45 No. 4, pp. 431-435. https://doi.org/10.1108/IR-05-2018-0108
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