Former MIT professor Rodney Brooks studies and engineers robot intelligence, looking for the holy grail of robotics: the AGI, or artificial general intelligence. For decades, we've been building robots to do highly specific tasks -- welding, riveting, delivering interoffice mail -- but what we all want, really, is a robot that can figure things out on its own, the way we humans do.
Brooks realized that a top-down approach -- just building the biggest brain possible and teaching it everything we could think of -- would never work. What would work is a robot who learns like we do, by trial and error, and with many separate parts that learn separate jobs. The thesis of his work which was captured in Fast, Cheap and Out of Control,went on to become the title of the great Errol Morris documentary.
A founder of iRobot, makers of the Roomba vacuum, Brooks is now founder and CTO of Rethink Robotics, whose mission is to apply advanced robotic intelligence to manufacturing and physical labor. Its first robots: the versatile two-armed Baxter and one-armed Sawyer. Brooks is the former director of CSAIL, MIT's Computers Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.