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 PhD-turned entrepreneur regarding his pioneering efforts of bringing technological inventions to market. The paper aims to discuss these issues.
The interviewee is Dr James Kuffner, CEO at Toyota Research Institute Advanced Development (TRI-AD). Kuffner is a proven entrepreneur and inventor in robot and motion planning and cloud robotics. In this interview, Kuffner shares his personal and professional journey from conceptualization to commercial realization.
Dr Kuffner received BS, MS and PhD degrees from the Stanford University’s Department of Computer Science Robotics Laboratory. He was a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Tokyo where he worked on software and planning algorithms for humanoid robots. He joined the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute in 2002 where he served until March 2018. Kuffner was a Research Scientist and Engineering Director at Google from 2009 to 2016. In January 2016, he joined TRI where he was appointed the Chief Technology Officer and Area Lead, Cloud Intelligence and is presently an Executive Advisor. He has been CEO of TRI-AD since April of 2018.
Dr Kuffner is perhaps best known as the co-inventor of the rapidly exploring random tree (RRT) algorithm, which has become a key standard benchmark for robot motion planning. He is also known for introducing the term “Cloud Robotics” in 2010 to describe how network-connected robots could take advantage of distributed computation and data stored in the cloud. Kuffner was part of the initial engineering team that built Google’s self-driving car. He was appointed Head of Google’s Robotics Division in 2014, which he co-founded with Andy Rubin to help realize the original Cloud Robotics concept. Kuffner also co-founded Motion Factory, where he was the Senior Software Engineer and a member of the engineering team to develop C++ based authoring tools for high-level graphic animation and interactive multimedia content. Motion Factory was acquired by SoftImage in 2000. In May 2007, Kuffner founded, and became the Director of Robot Autonomy where he coordinated research and software consulting for industrial and consumer robotics applications. In 2008, he assisted in the iOS development of Jibbigo, the first on-phone, real-time speech recognition, translation and speech synthesis application for the iPhone. Jibbigo was acquired by Facebook in 2013. Kuffner is one of the most highly cited authors in the field of robotics and motion planning, with over 15,000 citations. He has published over 125 technical papers and was issued more than 50 patents related to robotics and computer vision technology.
Pransky, J. (2019), "The Pransky interview: Dr James Kuffner, CEO at Toyota Research Institute Advanced Development, Coinventor of the rapidly, exploring random tree algorithm", Industrial Robot, Vol. 47 No. 1, pp. 7-11. https://doi.org/10.1108/IR-11-2019-0226Download as .RIS
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