Rodney Brooks

Obvious Champion

Rodney Brooks has cofounded six companies including iRobot, maker of the Roomba, Rethink Robotics, and now Robust.AI.

He wrote a Master's thesis on Machine Learning in Australia in 1977, and a PhD thesis on computer vision at Stanford in 1981. Computers have gotten much faster since then. In the eighties, while on the faculty at MIT, he developed behavior based control for robots, which eventually through the work of many others morphed into Behavior Trees which now power most video games.

He has worked across a large spectrum of commercially successful robots from home robots, to military bomb disposal robots, to robots that operated inside the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant after three reactors melted down, to the first collaborative robots in manufacturing, that could be taught by demonstration rather than being programmed. At Robust.AI the team is developing collaborative mobile robots for warehouses and manufacturing, with an emphasis on "people first".

From 1997 to 2007 he was the director of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, and then the founding director of MIT CSAIL (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab), MIT's largest laboratory.