Heather Knight is a Missionary for Social Robotics

Heather Knight is a Missionary for Social Robotics
Heather Knight as a student with robots from the Carnegie Mellon robot census.
Heather Knight as a student with robots from the Carnegie Mellon robot census.

Heather Knight describes herself as a social roboticist, but I’ve come to think of her as something like a missionary for future human-robot relations. Since her days at the MIT Personal Robotics Group within the MIT Media Lab, Heather has worked on many projects that focus on the interaction of technology and people. Her work at MIT included interactive robotic flowers, robotic companions, and robots that learn language and respond to touch… even to hugs.

After working with the NAO robot at Aldebaran, Heather bought one and named it Data. She and Data have been performing stand up comedy as part of a project Heather calls Robot in the Wild. While Data may not be laugh-out-loud funny, that’s not really the point. The idea is to collect data and improve Data’s ability to interact to people in a humanistic way.

Another way that Heather promotes the exploration of the human-robot relationship is through the Robot Film Festival, which she founded in 2011. The festival has been a huge success, drawing attention in the media and film submissions from many sources. This year’s festival is scheduled for July 19th 2014, in San Francisco.

Heather has plenty of other accomplishments. She has created interactive sculptures, helped manage the creation of the Rube Goldberg machine in OK Go’s music video ‘This Too Shall Pass‘, and even appeared as a contestant on SyFy’s Robot Combat League.

While she continues to spread the good word of social robotics, Heather continues to pursue a robotics Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon. Information on Heather’s work can be found on her website, Marilyn Monrobot.

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Andrew Terranova is an electrical engineer, writer and author of How Things Are Made: From Automobiles to Zippers. Andrew is also an electronics and robotics enthusiast and has created and curated robotics exhibits for the Children's Museum of Somerset County, NJ and taught robotics classes for the Kaleidoscope Enrichment in Blairstown, NJ and for a public primary school. Andrew is always looking for ways to engage makers and educators.

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