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Cynthia Breazeal

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Designing sociable robots


Cynthia Breazeal

Known for

Cynthia Breazeal Cynthia Breazeal The rise of personal robots TED Talk

November 15, 1967 (age 56) (

Alma mater
University of California, Santa Barbara (B.S., EECS, 1989)MIT (S.M., 1993; Sc.D., 2000)

computer scientist, professor

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California, Santa Barbara

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Cynthia Lynn Breazeal (born November 15, 1967 in Albuquerque, New Mexico) is an Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she is the director of the Personal Robots Group (formerly the Robotic Life Group) at the MIT Media Laboratory. She is best known for her work in robotics where she is recognized as a pioneer of social robotics and human–robot interaction.


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Cynthia Breazeal received her B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1989, her S.M. in 1993 and her Sc.D. in 2000 in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, both from MIT.

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She developed the robot Kismet as a doctoral thesis looking into expressive social exchange between humans and humanoid robots. Now you can see Kismet at the MIT Museum where you can find some of the other robots Breazeal co-developed while a graduate student at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab. Notable examples include the upper torso humanoid robot Cog and the insect-like robot Hannibal.

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At the Media Lab, Breazeal continues to work on social interaction and socially situated learning between people and robots. Leonardo is another globally recognized robot (co-developed with Stan Winston Studio) that was developed as a successor to Kismet (recognized in 2006 by Wired Magazine as one of the "50 Best Robots Ever"). Leonardo was also used to investigate social cognition and Theory of Mind abilities on robots with application to human-robot collaboration, in addition to developing social learning abilities for robots such as imitation, tutelage, and social referencing. Nexi is the most recent robot in this tradition (awarded a TIME Magazine 50 Best Inventions of 2008). Nexi is a MDS robot (Mobile, Dexterous, Social) that combines rich social communication abilities with mobile dexterity to investigate more complex forms of human-robot teaming.

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Other social robots developed in Breazeal's Personal Robots Group include Autom, a robot diet and exercise coach (the PhD thesis of Cory Kidd). It was found to be more effective than a computer counterpart in sustaining engagement and building trust and a working alliance with users. Autom is in the process of being commercialized (see Intuitive Automata). Breazeal's group has also explored expressive remote presence robots (for example, MeBot and Huggable). The physical social embodiment of the MeBot was found to elicit greater psychological involvement, engagement, and desire to cooperate over purely screen based video conferencing or a mobile screen.

Breazeal's Personal Robots Group has also done a number of design projects. See Cyberflora that was exhibited at the 2003 National Design Triennial at the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Breazeal is recognized as a designer and innovator on the national and global stage. She received the Gilbreth Lectures Award by the National Academy of Engineering in 2008. She has spoken at a number of prominent global events including the World Science Festival, the World Economic Forum, and TEDWomen. Breazeal is a featured scientist in the Women's Adventures in Science series (sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences). In 2003, Breazeal was recognized as a Finalist in the National Design Awards in Communication at the White House.

She is an Overseer at the Museum of Science in Boston, and she is on the Board of Advisors of the Science Channel.

She also has a prominent role as a virtual participant in a popular exhibit on robots with the traveling exhibit, Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination, interacting with a real C-3PO (voiced by Anthony Daniels as she spoke to the audience through a pre-recorded message displayed on a large plasma flat-screen display.

In 2003, she was named to the MIT Technology Review TR100 as one of the top 100 innovators in the world under the age of 35.

On July 16, 2014, Breazeal launched an Indiegogo campaign to crowdfund the development of the JIBO personal assistant robot. JIBO reached its initial fundraising goal and was due to launch in 2015. Several promised release dates were not met and the product is still in development.


  • Breazeal, Cynthia (2002). Designing Sociable Robots. The MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-02510-8. 
  • Breazeal, Cynthia; Bar-Cohen, Yoseph (2003). Biologically Inspired Intelligent Robots. Bellingham, Washington: SPIE (The International Society for Optical Engineering). ISBN 0-8194-4872-9. 
  • References

    Cynthia Breazeal Wikipedia