Women in STEM - Dr. Cynthia Breazeal
The daughter of two scientists, Cynthia Breazeal became enamored with robots when she watched Star Wars when she was 10 years old.
With encouragement from her parents, she excelled in school and obtained both her M.S. and Sc.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Upon graduating, she became very focused on the development of social robots.
And the work that Cynthia has done in the field of robotics is truly incredible. She centers her work around the idea of “living with AI.” Most of her research has measured the impact of robots and artificial intelligence on our everyday lives. A lot of her work has been studying the connection between early childhood development and child-friendly robots. Cynthia’s studies measured the impact of the children interacting and playing with robots to learn vocabulary and literacy skills, as well as skills for social emulation and growth mindset.
Leonardo, one of her first prototypes, focused on increasing theory of mind abilities in robotics and human-robot collaboration. Cynthia has since developed many more robots and even served as a consultant for the 2001 Kubrick/Spielberg film, “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.”
In 2014, Cynthia crowdfunded her own company focused on her product, “Jibo” which was a personal assistant robot. This product was a social robot that would provide a personalized learning and engagement platform. Unfortunately, this mass-consumer startup proved to be more difficult to get off the ground than initially imagined, and things didn’t go quite as planned. Jibo ended up closing up shop in 2020.
After closing Jibo, Cynthia went back to her work at the MIT Media Lab and started developing virtual learning programs for K-12 students who were no longer able to learn in their classrooms. She also continues to work as an Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT, as well as an overseer for the Museum of Science in Boston.
To learn even more about Cynthia’s work in education and human-robotic interaction, check out her Wikipedia page.
We also highly recommend you watch this insightful presentation she gave about her journey to the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society last year: