Andrea Thomaz Wins Prestigious "MIT Tech Review 2009 Young Innovators Under 35 Award" -- Unveils New Simon Robot

Simon Robot alongside TR35 winner, Dr. Andrea Thomaz

Dr. Andrea Thomaz of Georgia Tech's Socially Intelligent Machines Lab was recently awarded the prestigious "MIT Tech Review 2009 Young Innovators Under 35", an honor shared with last year's robotics recipient, Andrew Ng.  Simultaneous to this fantastic news, Andrea's lab unveiled an amazing new robot named Simon (see photos and videos below).  Simon features an articulated torso, dual 7-DOF arms, and anthropomorphic hands from Meka Robotics along with an expressive head designed at Georgia Tech.  Simon is designed to study human-robot interaction from a social learning vantage, such as learning by demonstration and human-robot collaboration.  I'm very enthralled for Andrea, and I'm proud to have taken her graduate research course on human-robot interaction while at Georgia Tech. 

First, let's watch a video of Simon in action:

A closeup of Simon.

Simon Robot

One of the most striking aspects of Simon is the articulated torso, dual 7-DOF arms, and anthropomorphic hands designed by Meka Robotics, a stealthy Silicon Valley startup co-founded by Aaron Edsinger and Jeff Weber (co-creators of the famous Domo humanoid).  Additionally, the head features expressive, articulated eyes and articulated ears that are illuminated by LED's.  Combined, these components provide expressive capabilities that lend some serious character to the robot.

I'm interested to watch the direction Dr. Thomaz's research takes, particularly with Simon, as  Dr. Thomaz has an impressive history in human-robot interaction -- having worked on the lovable Leonardo robot while under Dr. Breazeal at MIT.  If you'd like to learn more about Simon, check out the MIT Tech Review article or Dr. Thomaz's blog post, which says:

It is exciting to see Simon starting to come to life–we have several projects underway working on endowing him with some social learning skills, stay tuned for more on that over the next few months.


While I'm on the topic of TR35, I'd like to congratulate my colleague, Shwetak Patel, for also winning a  "MIT Tech Review 2009 Young Innovators Under 35" award.  Congrats Shwetak!