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Innovation & Startups

Meet social roboticist Heather Knight and Data at CMU's Robot Hall of Fame


As a social roboticist, Heather Knight is helping us see robots in new and entertaining ways.   
 
Robots can tell stories and make us laugh, says Knight who made her debut, accompanied by her endearing sidekick Data, at a 2010 TED Talk. The two have been performing together ever since.
 
Knight, who grew up in Lexington, Mass., is conducting her doctoral research at CMU’s Robotics Institute, attracted by the unique combination of fine arts, robotic and entertainment tech programs.

In keeping with her mission, one of the first things she did when she arrived was to take a census of all the robots on CMU's campus. There are 547 robots in all, not including those at NREC in Lawrenceville, nearly one robot for every student in the department, she says.

In addition to her academic studies, Knight has several ongoing robot projects. She runs a stand up comedy troupe robots, Marilyn Monrobot Labs, in New York City, which produces sensor-based electronic art performances.
 
She also was the founder of the NYC’s first Robot Film Festival, held this summer, and one of several behind Cyborg Cabaret at the New Hazlett Theatre last April, a variety show billed as “avant art-meets-science” theater.
 
She also made the Forbes List for 30 Under 30 in Science. 
 
It's all about breaking the boundaries in our understanding of robots and what they can do and attracting more people to science and technology.  Robots can speak our language and make us laugh in addition to helping humankind, she says.
 
“I want to make machines that will help humanity to flourish,” Knight adds.
 
Knight and Data will make an appearance during the Robot Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at CMU next month, which will be held during the RoboBusiness Leadership Summit. The summit will bring hundreds of robotics industry leaders to Pittsburgh for an Oct. 22-24 conference. 
 
Vote early and often for your favorite robot from the slate of nominees for the Robot Hall of Fame. Created by CMU in 2003, the hall honors both fictional and real robots. Among the nominees are one of Data’s relatives, WALL-E of movie fame and Rosie from the Jetsons. 
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Heather Knight, CMU
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