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The Pransky interview: Dr Rodney Brooks, Robotics Entrepreneur, Founder and CTO of Rethink Robotics

Industrial Robot

ISSN: 0143-991x

Article publication date: 19 January 2015




This article, a “Q&A interview” conducted by Joanne Pransky of Industrial Robot Journal, aims 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 Rodney Brooks, the Panasonic Professor of Robotics (emeritus), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab; Founder, Chief Technical Officer (CTO) and Chairman of Rethink Robotics. Dr Brooks shares some of his underlying principles in technology, academia and business, as well as past and future challenges.


Dr Brooks received degrees in pure mathematics from the Flinders University of South Australia and a PhD in computer science from Stanford University in 1981. He held research positions at Carnegie Mellon University and MIT, and a faculty position at Stanford before joining the faculty of MIT in 1984. He is also a Founder, Board Member and former CTO (1991-2008) of iRobot Corp (Nasdaq: IRBT). Dr Brooks is the former Director (1997-2007) of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and then the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He founded Rethink Robotics (formerly Heartland Robotics) in 2008.


While at MIT, in 1988, Dr Brooks built Genghis, a hexapodal walker, designed for space exploration (which was on display for ten years in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.). Genghis was one of the first robots that utilized Brooks’ pioneering subsumption architecture. Dr Brooks’ revolutionary behavior-based approach underlies the autonomous robots of iRobot, which has sold more than 12 million home robots worldwide, and has deployed more than 5,000 defense and security robots; and Rethink Robotics’ Baxter, the world’s first interactive production robot. Dr Brooks has won the Computers and Thought Award at the 1991 International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, the 2008 IEEE Inaba Technical Award for Innovation Leading to Production, the 2014 Robotics Industry Association’s Engelberger Robotics Award for Leadership and the 2015 IEEE Robotics and Automation Award.



Pransky, J. (2015), "The Pransky interview: Dr Rodney Brooks, Robotics Entrepreneur, Founder and CTO of Rethink Robotics", Industrial Robot, Vol. 42 No. 1, pp. 1-4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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