This 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 entrepreneur regarding the evolution, commercialization and challenges of bringing a technological invention to market.
The interviewee is Dr Yoky Matsuoka, the Vice President of Nest Labs. Matsuoka describes her career journey that led her from a semi-professional tennis player who wanted to build a robot tennis buddy, to a pioneer of neurobotics who then applied her multidisciplinary research in academia to the development of a mass-produced intelligent home automation device.
Dr Matsuoka received a BS degree from the University of California, Berkeley and an MS and PhD in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She was also a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT and in Mechanical Engineering at Harvard University. Dr Matsuoka was formerly the Torode Family Endowed Career Development Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington (UW), Director of the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering and Ana Loomis McCandless Professor of Robotics and Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. In 2010, she joined Google X as one of its three founding members. She then joined Nest as VP of Technology.
Dr Matsuoka built advanced robotic prosthetic devices and designed complementary rehabilitation strategies that enhanced the mobility of people with manipulation disabilities. Her novel work has made significant scientific and engineering contributions in the combined fields of mechanical engineering, neuroscience, bioengineering, robotics and computer science. Dr Matsuoka was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in which she used the Genius Award money to establish a nonprofit corporation, YokyWorks, to continue developing engineering solutions for humans with physical disabilities. Other awards include the Emerging Inventor of the Year, UW Medicine; IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Early Academic Career Award; Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers; and numerous others. She leads the development of the learning and control technology for the Nest smoke detector and Thermostat, which has saved the USA hundreds of billions of dollars in energy expenses. Nest was sold to Google in 2013 for a record $3.2 billion dollars in cash.
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