Rodney Brooks is the father of the Roomba, the founder of iRobot, and the creator of both the Baxter and Sawyer product lines from Rethink Robotics. He’s arguably the world’s most accomplished roboticist. And if he’s not – and I personally can’t think of who could challenge him for that crown – he’s definitely the top roboticist to be profiled in an Errol Morris documentary (1997’s Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control).
When Rodney left Australia for the region that would later become known as Silicon Valley, there were quite literally 3 mobile robots of consequence on the entire planet. Years later, he founded a company which has since brought tens of millions of these critters into the world. His products have saved countless lives. They have also liberated thousands of acres of carpeting from dust crumbs, dog hair, and other detritus.
Amazingly, Rodney’s tenure and credentials are every bit as significant in a second high tech field: artificial intelligence. He founded the leading developer of AI coding tools throughout the 80s and early 90s. And somehow he squeezed his robotics and AI entrepreneurship in while building a storied academic career – largely at MIT, where he spent a decade running one of the two largest and most prominent AI centers in the world.
Rodney is my guest in this week's edition of the After on Podcast. You can listen to our interview by searching “After On” in your favorite podcast app, or by clicking right here:
As you’ll hear, Rodney diverges from fashionable narratives on several tech-related topics. They include super AI risk; the extent to which jobs will be imperiled by automation (he’s more worried about a labor shortage than a job shortage); and the timeline of the rise of self-driving cars (this being intersection of his two domains of foundational expertise: robotics and AI).
Few can match the breadth, depth, and duration of Rodney’s purview on the tech industry – which makes for a truly fascinating conversation.
Image: Jeff Green/Rethink Robotics - Rethink Robotics, CC BY 4.0, Link
Remember engineer Shane Wighton of Stuff Made Here who impressed the Internet with his robotic basketball backboard that helps the ball into the hoop? Now he’s built a robot that cuts his hair. Using a combination of physical sensors and computer vision, it gave him a pretty great looking mullet! I also appreciate its Flowbee-like […]
University of Washington engineers developed a tiny, wireless, and steerable videocamera that can be worn by insects or minuscule micro-robots to stream live video. The device weighs just 248 milligrams. Evan Ackerman writes in IEEE Spectrum: The system was successfully tested on a pair of darkling beetles that were allowed to roam freely outdoors, and […]
Electricical engineer and TV host Grant Imahara is unexpectedly dead at 49, reports The Hollywood Reporter. Imahara, the longtime co-host of Mythbusters and a veteran of Industrial Light and Magic, suffered a brain aneurism. An electrical engineer and roboticist by training, he joined Discovery’s MythBusters in its third season, replacing Scottie Chapman and was with […]
No matter whether you go into the office or work from home, whether you roll out of bed at 5 a.m. or never get up before 9, we all agree a day can on how you feel first thing in the morning when you wake up. If you wake up feeling groggy or out of […]
The aluminum can is a great invention. And for 60 years, it and its crafty little addition, the pull tab, have made transporting and drinking all of our favorite beers, soft drinks and other beverages about 1,000 percent easier. Of course, evolution continues — and even an innovation as awesome as the aluminum can is […]
It’s tempting for many young professionals to assume that because they’ve spent most of their lives posting links to Facebook or pushing selfies to Instagram that they have the skills needed to be a digital marketer. Creating compelling content is certainly important, but if you’re not up to speed on search engine optimization (SEO), how […]