Rodney Brooks builds robots based on biological principles of movement and reasoning. The goal: a robot who can figure things out.

Why you should listen

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.


Rodney Brooks’ TED talks

More news and ideas from Rodney Brooks


Do we like robots better if they look like us?

May 6, 2014

In Marco Tempest’s latest TED Talk, he introduces EDI the robot, which dances, makes jokes, does impressions of Woody Allen and even performs magic tricks. Designed to aid in factory production, EDI also has a screen programmed with facial expressions, begging the question: Why do we build robots with human-like faces and expressions?

Continue reading
Live from TED

Lies, sex, an even freer Wikipedia and Sir Ken at a slaughterhouse: A recap of “The future is ours,” All-Stars Session 5 at TED2014

March 20, 2014

By Kate Torgovnick, Morton Bast, Thu-Huong Ha The future. When it comes down to it, it’s not about flying cars, flashy robots, jetpacks, or awesome sunglasses. It’s about the little things we can do to advance healthcare, better education, create opportunities, improve connections between each other, and make lives just a little bit easier. In […]

Continue reading