Oral-History:Robotics History: Narratives and Networks

Beginning in 2010, The IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, together with the School of Informatics and Computer Science at Indiana University, undertook a major robotics history project, “Robotics History: Narratives and Networks." Selma Šabanović of Indiana University was the principal investigator leading the project team. One of the major goals of the project was to document the development of robotics as a scientific field through an extensive program of oral histories with major figures in the field. Over 90 such oral histories were completed between 2010 and 2013. These oral histories are being posted here as they become available.

  • Rachid Alami - Alami's work has focused primarily on robot-robot and human-robot collaboration. Alami is currently the director of Robotics and A.I. research at the Laboratory for Analysis and Architecture of Systems (LAAS) of the CNRS, the French National Research Center at the University of Toulouse.
  • Michael Arbib - Arbib's work has focused on the intersection oftheoretical neuroscience and computer science, and the influence of that intersection on the field of robotics. He held positions successively at Stanford, the University of Massachusetts, and USC.
  • Robert Ambrose - Ambrose is at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX where he is currently the Principal Investigator of the Game Changing Development Program. Ambrose also heads NASA's Robonaut project and has been instrumental in the development of human-robot interactions.
  • Tatsuo Arai - Osaka University full professor in the Department of Systems Innovation and past Vice President of IAARC, Chair of the Robotics and Mechatronics Division of JSME, and a Director of RSJ.
  • Ronald Arkin - Arkin, an IEEE fellow has spent most of his career at Georgia Tech, where is currently Regents' Professor, Director of the Mobile Robot Laboratory, and Associate Dean for Research and Space Planning. Much of his work is in robot ethics and deception. He is also known for his corporate consulting, especially his decades long work for SONY on the AIBO and QRIO robots.
  • Minoru Asada - Asada is known for his work on image processing and robotic behaviors and has been a graduate professor for the department of Adaptive Machine Systems at Osaka University since 1997.
  • Ruzena Bajcsy - Bajcsy has long been a member of the ECE Department at UC-Berkeley. While her previous research centered on robotics and automation, her current focus is on artificial intelligence; biosystems and computational biology; control, intelligent systems, and robotics; graphics and human-computer interaction, computer vision; and security.
  • George Bekey - He spent forty years on the engineering faculty of the University of Southern California. He has played major roles in the fields of robotic prosthetics, human robot interaction, and robot ethics. Bekey is an IEEE Life Fellow and founding member of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.
  • Jim Bobrow - Bobrow, a long time professor at University of California-Irvine has spent the greater part of his career developing robots for use in patient rehabilitation.
  • Bob Bolles - Bolles has long been a researcher at SRI international. His work has focused on the combined areas of robotics and computer vision.
  • Herman Bruyninckx - Bruyninckx was both educated and has spent most of his career at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, where he has studied problems such as the integration of vision and force control.
  • Joel Burdick - Burdick, a long time faculty member at Cal Tech has devoted split his career among several areas including medical applications, especially for the treatment of paralytics, and space exploration work for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
  • Norm Caplan - Caplan spent most of his career at the U. S. National Science Foundation, where he administer programs that funded a wide range of robotics projects. He was also one of the founders and later served as president of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society
  • Brian Carlisle - Carlisle has long been a leader in the development and sale of robots for industrial applications, co-founding and leading several companies including Vicarm, Adept Technologies, and Precise Automation.
  • Raja Chatila - Chatila has spent most of his career with CNRS in Paris. His research encompasses a broad range of topics within the filed, especially in creating an understanding of the interactions and applications of autonomous and cognitive robotics.
  • Howie Choset - Choset has been a robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon since 1996. His research focuses on flexible snake robots, especially their application to medical robotics such as minimally invasive surgery.
  • Peter Corke - Corke spent 25 years at the Australian Government research agency CSIRO, where much of his work was on applications of robotics in mining and vision based robot control, also known as video servoing. Since 2010 he has been on the faculty of Queensland University of Technology.
  • Ron Daniel - A long time faculty member at Oxford, Daniels' long robotics career as centered on remote control robots, such as those used in nuclear power plants.
  • John Craig - Over the course of his almost forty year career, Craig has worked with several different robotics groups and companies performing research on the motion and control of robots and robotic parts, including JPL, Adept, Invenios, and his own company, Silma.
  • Paolo Dario - Dario has long been a leader in the application of robotics to medicine and rehabilitation.
  • Ernst Dickmanns - Dickmanns spent most of his career at the Universität der Bundeswehr München, where he worked on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, specifically on dynamic computer vision and on autonomous vehicles.
  • Ken Goldberg - Goldberg, an IEEE Fellow, has spent most of his career at Berkeley. Much of his work has centered on the intersection of robotics, art, and social networks. He has also worked extensively on automation, and is the founding editor of the IEEE Transactions of Automation Science and Engineering.
  • Norihiro Hagita - Educated at Keio University, Hagita has split his career between NTT (Nippon Telephone) and ATR (The Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute). Much of his work has focused on agent systems and pattern recognition.
  • Shigeo Hirose - Hirose has spent his career beginning in graduate school at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, where his research has focused on snake and spider robots.
  • Gerd Hirzinger - Herzinger has spent his career at DLR, the German national aeronautics and space research center, where he has played a leading role in the development of robots for use in space.
  • Ralph Hollis - Hollis spent the first part of his career in robotics research at IBM, and then moved to Carnegie-Mellon. His research has centered on haptics, agile precision assembly, and dynamically-stable mobile robots
  • Seth Hutchinson - Hutchinson, a longtime faculty member at the University of Illinois has devoted much of his career to the intersection of computer vision and robotics.
  • Hirochika Inoue - Inoue is professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo. He has had a varied career in robotics, including extensive work on humanoid robots.
  • Hiroshi Ishiguro - In this interview, Hiroshi Ishiguro discusses his career in robotics, focusing on his work in computer vision, and in interactive and intelligent robotics. Commenting on his move towards humanoid robot development, he discusses the importance and challenges of creating the human appearance.
  • John Hollerbach - In this interview, John Hollerbach discusses his career in robotics, focusing on computer vision and artificial intelligence with a biological angle. Outlining his involvement with the artificial intelligence lab and the instigation of the Year of the Robot, he comments on the evolution and community acceptance of robotics as a serious scientific discipline.
  • Ray Jarvis - Jarvis, an IEEE Life Fellow, divided his career between the Australian National University and Monash University. His research spanned as wide range of topics within robotics, including computer vision, intelligent robots, path and pattern recognition and planning, and image processing.
  • Makoto Kaneko - Kaneko outlines his progression throughout robotics and his contributions to various projects, such as the walking robot and the multi-fingered hand. He discusses his experiments with the hand, and the influences drawn upon by his work. Finally, he provides insight into the future direction of his research, and comments on the future applications of robotics.
  • Frederic Kaplan - Kaplan outlines his career in robotics, starting from Sony all the way to his position at EPFL. He discusses his contributions to various robotics projects, including the Sony AIBO robot, and the design influences from biology, psychology, and art. Commenting on his interactions and collaborations with Luc Steels and other roboticists, his experience with his startup and the robot-art movement, and the future challenges of the field, he also provides advice for young people interested in a career in robotics.
  • Oussama Khatib - In this interview, Oussama Khatib discusses his career in robotics, focusing on robot control and motion planning. Describing his work and research, he outlines his time at Stanford University and his involvement in several robotics projects, including the Stanford Robotics Platforms—Romeo and Juliet. Discussing the evolution and challenges of his work, he describes his move towards humanoid robotics and his involvement with robotics societies and activities, as well as provides advice for young people interested in a career in robotics.
  • Pradeep Khosla - In this interview, Pradeep Khosla discusses his career in robotics, focusing on manipulation and control. Outlining his involvement at Carnegie Mellon and DARPA, he describes his work on the SCARA design and the direct-drive arm, the reconfigurable modular manipulator system, swarm robotics, and warfare robotics and comments on DARPA’s influence on robotics. He discusses his move towards research in security in embedded systems, and his activities within CMU, such as the creation of the CyLab and involvement with the Robotics Institute. He reflects on the evolution of robotics and robotics education at CMU, and the challenges and future of the field in the US and in other countries.
  • Sara Kiesler - Kiseler discusses her career in robotics, focusing on anthropomorphic robots, human-robot interaction, and cognitive and social design. Describing her involvement with projects such as Pearl, she goes on to describe her involvement in organizing and developing the HRI conferences. She reflects on her transition from social psychology and computer interaction to human-robot interaction, and comments on its relationship to human psychology and its future development.
  • Petar Kokotovic - A Native of Belgrade and an IEEE Life fellow, Kokotovic studied widely in both Eastern and Western Europe before joining the faculty at the University of Illinois where in the 1960s he developed the sensitivity points method which is still in use for the automatic tuning of industrial controllers.
  • Jean-Paul Laumond - In this interview, Jean Paul Laumond discusses his movement from mathematics to robotics and his career contributions to the field, especially in regards to motion planning and anthropomorphic motion. Describing his involvement at CNRS and in other robotics projects, such as HILARE, he comments on the distinction in perception between the robotics approach and a mathematics one.
  • Daniel Lee - Daniel Lee discusses his career in robotics, focusing on his research at Bell Labs and UPenn’s GRASP Lab. Describing his work on machine learning algorithms and in robotics projects, such as the robot dog and the DARPA Urban Challenge, he comments on the challenges of the field and his research. Reflecting on the evolution of the GRASP Lab and of the field of robotics, he comments on its potential and future.
  • Tomas Lozano-Perez - In this interview, Tomas Lozano-Perez discusses his career in robotics focusing on his work at the AI Lab and IBM. Describing his involvement in robotics projects, such as HANDEY, he comments on the evolution and applications of the field, and its future potential and challenges. Additionally, reflects on the developments at MIT, his goals as director, and advice for young people looking to pursue a career in robotics.
  • Matt Mason - In this interview, Matt Mason discusses his career in robotics, in particular in compliant motion, force control, and fine motion planning. Outlining his involvement in projects at IBM, MIT, and Carnegie Mellon, he provides insight into the state and evolution of robotics at the time. Describing his current work on manipulation and robotic hands, he comments on the future of robotics at CMU and of the field as a whole.
  • Bob McGhee - McGhee discusses his career in robotics, in particular his work on guided missiles, walking robots, and unmanned submarines. Describing his work on robotics projects, such as the phony pony and the bionic bug, he emphasizes the animal and human influence. Discussing the fallibility of robots, he describes the research and work being done at the time, as well as comments on the change in the perception of robotics and the evolution of the field.
  • John McCarthy - McCarthy, a long time professor of computer science at Stanford was a the founders of the field of artificial intelligence, and applied artificial intelligence to robotic arms. He also devised the LISP programming language.
  • Max Mintz - In this interview, Max Mintz discusses his career in robotics, focusing on control theory and decision-making under uncertainty. Describing his time at the CSL and the GRASP Lab, he outlines the influences and challenges of his work. Reflecting on the evolution of robotics, he comments on the outstanding problems of the field and its relationship with other disciplines.
  • Francesco Mondada - Mondada was both educated at and has spent his career at the the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. His work has led to at least two commercial successes: the Khepera robot for laboratory applicatons and the E-Puck for educational applications.
  • Richard Murray - In this interview, Richard Murray discusses his career in robotics, in particular his work on manipulation and grasping, non-holonomic motion planning, and locomotion. He describes the state of robotics at CalTech and his contribution to robotics projects there, as well as the challenges of his research. Moving into work with UAV/UAS, he outlines his involvement with the Grand Challenge and his eventual involvement with bio-molecular feedback. Additionally he comments on human-robot interaction and the challenges and problems facing robotics.
  • Brad Nelson - In this interview, Brad Nelson discusses his career in robotics, focusing on control, manipulation, micro-positioning, and micro/nanorobotics. Describing his research at CMU, the University of Illinois, Minnesota, and ETH, he discusses the challenges of his work and the interactions between scientific disciplines. Commenting on the evolution of robotics and micro/nanorobotics, he goes on to discuss his various work environments, the state of Switzerland’s funding, and the future of the robotics.
  • Jean-Daniel Nicoud - In this interview, Jean-Daniel Nicoud discusses his career in robotics and at Lausanne and DIDEL. Describing the state of roboics at EPFL, he reflects on the evolution of the field and his research work. Moving from academia to form a private company (DIDEL), he outlines its motivations and influences, as well as the challenges and potential of robotics applications.
  • Nils Nilsson - Nilsson spent the first half of his career at SRI and the second half at Stanford. In both places, much of his work focused on Pattern Recognition and AI.
  • Nourbakhsh, Illah - Nourbakhsh discusses his work in robotics, focusing on artificial intelligence and planning, and the challenges and future of the field. Describing his involvement in projects, such as the Book Store Project and the automated highway system project, he outlines the state of robotics at Stanford, the start of his company (Blue Pumpkin Software), and his arrival and work at Carnegie Mellon. Additionally he discusses his work on educational projects, such as the Dinosaur Hall, and at NASA, and comments on the potential for robotics in education and space exploration.
  • Jun Ho On - In this interview, Jun Ho Oh discusses his career in robotics, describing his work in industrial automation and his research on control and humanoid robots. Commenting on the Korean robotics, he describes the evolution of the perception of robots and the state of robotics education.
  • Allison Okamura - Okamura discusses her work in robotics, focusing on manipulation, planning, and sensory feedback and haptics. Describing her time with Immersion and at Johns Hopkins and Stanford, she outlines her involvement with robotics projects, such as Da Vinci Surgical System and the snake robot, and the innovations and successes of her work. Additionally he describes her involvement in the robotics community, the role of women in robotics, and the challenges and potential of the field.
  • George Pappas - Pappas discusses his work in robotics, in particular his work at RPI, UC Berkeley, and Penn. He describes the environment of his education and workplaces, and the various collaborations and influences he experienced, as well as the problems and projects he researched. Additionally he reflects on the evolution of robotics throughout his career, its future applications and challenges, and impact on society.
  • Rolf Peifer - Pfeifer discusses his work in robotics, focusing on artificial intelligence and locomotion. Describing the influence of human psychology and intelligence on his research, he outlines his early work with cognitive robots and AI and his later work in bio-robotics. He discusses the challenges and breakthroughs of his work and of bio-robotics as a whole, as well as the evolution of robotics throughout his career and its future applications and goals.
  • Robert Riener - Riener discusses his work in robotics, with a focus on simulation and control, medical applications, and prosthetics. Outlining the social challenges which sparked his interest, as well as the challenges of his research, he describes the relationship between robotics and prosthetics and its potential applications for societal advancement.
  • Bernie Roth - Roth discusses his work in robotics, focusing on his research in force control manipulation, and his time at Stanford University. Describing his involvement with the AI Lab, he outlines his work in projects, such Shakey and robotic hands, and his many collaborations with roboticists and students. Reflecting on the evolution of robotics throughout his career, he comments on the future potential and application of the field.
  • Carl Ruoff - Ruoff discusses his work in robotics, focusing on his research at Caltech and JPL. He describes his involvement in projects, such as the Sojourner rover, and comments on the challenges and breakthroughs he faced. Additionally he describes the environment of the lab and the various collaborations he engaged in, as well as reflects on the future of robotics in space exploration.
  • Ken Salisbury - Salisbury discusses his career and work in robotics. Outlining his movement from academia to industry and back to academia, he describes his involvement in robotics projects, such as the Stanford (Salisbury) Hand and Barrett arm, and various collaborations with other roboticists. He comments on the evolution of robotics, and its challenges and potential applications. Additionally he reflects on his career and his many contribution to robotics.
  • Stefan Schaal - Schaal discusses his career and work in robotics. Outlining his work at MIT and with the ERATO project in Japan, he moves on to describe his previous and current research at USC. He comments on the various problems and breakthroughs faced by robotics, on his own career successes and failures, and on the various influences and collaborations he has experienced throughout his career.
  • Victor Scheinman - Scheinman is a leader in the research, development, and industrial applications of robotic arms.
  • Bruce Shimano - Shimano discusses his career and work in robotics. Describing his involvement in with the Stanford AI Lab and his move to industry when he joined Unimation and founded Adept Technologies, he outlines the robotics and automation applications he worked on. Additionally he describes the evolution of robotics over the years, his successes and contributions to the field, and the current state of robotics and automation.
  • Bruno Siciliano - Siciliano discusses his career and work in robotics, such as his involvement with RoManSy and with the development of the Handbook of Robotics. Describing his involvement with robotics projects and the robotics community, he outlines the challenges of the field, the evolution and limitations of the Italian education and funding system, and its relationship with other disciplines.
  • Roland Siegwart - Siegwart discusses his career and work in robotics. Describing his involvement at Stanford, EPFL, and ETH, he outlines his contributions to the field. He comments on the state of robotics in Switzerland and the challenges of small-scale robotics, and describes the various influences and applications of his work.
  • Reid Simmons - Simmons, from a position a Carnegie-Mellon spent many years working on robotics projects for NASA, and in more recent years has worked extensively on human-robot social interactions.
  • Michael Sims - Sims discusses his career and work in space robotics, focusing on artificial intelligence and human-robot interaction. Describing his research and collaborations, he outlines the applications and challenges of his work, such as TROV and MER. Additionally he comments on the evolution of his research work and of robotics as a whole, and its future potential and applications.
  • Luc Steels - Steels, a long-time professor at the University of Brussels, is best known for his work on employing language for human-robot interactions. Among other things, he played a central role in the development of Sony's AIBO robotic dog.
  • Shigeki Sugano - Sugano has spent his career at Waseda University in Japan, where much of his work has concentrated on realizing the Japanese concept of "kokuro," mind, ffection, emotion and intelligence combined, in humanoid robots.
  • Russ Taylor - Taylor, first at IBM research and then at John Hopkins, has spent much of his career developing robots for surgical applications.
  • Chuck Thorpe - Thorpe, working chiefly at Carnegie-Mellon, is a long time leader in the development of autonomous land vehicles, better known as self-driving cars.
  • Masaru Uchiyama - From his position at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, Uchiyama has long been at the forefront of robotics research in Japan. He is a life fellow of the IEEE.
  • Hendrik Van Brussel - A professor in Mechatronics and Automation at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven who worked on involving cutting dynamics, structural dynamics, computer-integrated manufacture, and micro- and precision engineering.
  • Manuela Veloso - Carnegie Mellon University faculty member who became the Herbert A. Simon Professor in 2006. Veloso discusses her career in robotics, focusing on her activities at CMU.
  • Richard Volpe - Served as lead engineer for the Rocky-7 rover, the manager for the Mars Regional Mobility and Subsurface Access in JPL's Space Exploration Technology Program Office in 2001-2004. Volpe discusses his career in robotics, focusing on his research at CMU and work at JPL.
  • Ken Waldron - Stanford University Professor (Research) who discusses his career and contributions in robotics, focusing on his graduate research and his work at Ohio State and Stanford.
  • Red Whittaker - Whittaker has spent his career at Carnegie-Mellon, where he has long been a principal in its Robotics Institutes. Among his achievements was the design and a deployment of a robot used in the clean up of the failed Three Mile Island Nuclear Reactor.
  • Brian Wilcox - An employee of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Wilcox was involved in several robotics projects for planetary exploration, including the Mars Rover Sample Return and nanorover.
  • Alan Winfield - Associate Dean (Research) and Hewlett-Packard Professor of Electronic Engineering at the University of West England, Bristol
  • Mark Yim - Founder of Virtual Technologies, Yim also worked at Xerox PARC on modular reconfigurable robots. He is currently the Gabel Family Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering.