Cynthia Breazeal

American computer scientist

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 head of the Personal Robots group at the MIT Media Lab. She is recognized as a pioneer of social robotics and human–robot interaction.

2010 Cynthia Breazeal


  • There are so many things that we did with Kismet at MIT, in the Personal Robots Group, that are highly relevant today. It was the first of its kind, a scientific exploration, arguably the first robot to model emotions as an important way for it to make decisions as much as it did on its interactions with humans... When I first saw Star Wars I wanted R2D2 to be my sidekick! Like any kid with a Disney fantasy, when I saw him, I wanted him to come and live in my house... Of course C3PO is the cool humanoid robot, but the magic in Star Wars was those two robots together. They played off each other in a beautiful way, almost like Laurel & Hardy.
  • There is one view that we can allow these AI [tools] to deal with data and analytics and we let people deal with the caring, and the empathy, and the emotional aspects of care, which I think is absolutely critical... What if technology is capable of high touch engagement? What if AI was also social and emotionally intelligent? For me when I talk about emotional engagement, it’s not just about great user experience with technology... It is about deeper human engagement to enable transformative change in people’s lives... We have the world of design and we have the world of AI and right now those two aren’t built top of each other... But these have to come together. So we, through a lot of psychology, understand how people are thinking about experiencing new technology.


  • Like many of us, Cynthia Breazeal’s fascination with robots started with Star Wars. And as an associate professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT Media Lab, she has made bringing robots to life her career. Her latest venture? Founder and chief scientist of Jibo, which has been dubbed the world's first family robot. The company is in the final stages of bringing Jibo to a limited developers’ market later this year; a full commercial rollout is expected by summer 2016. Jibo is based on principles of socio-emotive artificial intelligence and engaging human-computer interaction, which Breazeal has been working on since building her first robot.
  • Hopes for social robots keep outpacing reality. Late last year, the squat, almost featureless Jibo graced the cover of Time Magazine's "best inventions" edition. Its creator, MIT robotics researcher Cynthia Breazeal, told The Associated Press at the time that "there's going to be a time when everybody will just take the personal robot for granted."... Jibo, a foot-high, vaguely conical device topped by a wide hemispherical "head," stays where you put it, typically on a countertop. But it can swivel its flat, round screen "face" to meet your gaze; tells joke and plays music; and can shimmy convincingly if you ask it to dance. It was pitched as "the world's first social robot for the home." At almost $900, though, Jibo didn't win anywhere near enough friends.
  • Can robots help teachers improve classroom learning?... Consider the work of Cynthia Breazeal... who leads the Personal Robots group. The group is conducting randomized control trials of the use of an AI-powered, teddy bear-sized and -looking robot named Tega in Boston-area schools... to improve the language and literacy skills of 5- and 6-year-olds. Researchers are tracking gains in the youngsters’ vocabulary and oral language development to determine how the use of human teachers and artificially intelligent robots together in classrooms compares with instruction without robots. “We’re starting to see some exciting and significant learning gains,” Breazeal said. “I am very encouraged.” But she conceded that a longer, bigger study is the next step... “We see a social-emotional benefit across age groups,” she said... If students started feeling much more comfortable interacting with robots... they might jeopardize their willingness and ability to have meaningful conversations or relationships with other people... Breazeal recognizes those downsides. “We need to be thinking more deeply around ethics,” she said, “particularly with AI with children.”
  • Cynthia Breazeal has been promoted to full professor and named associate director of the Media Lab, joining the two other associate directors: Hiroshi Ishii and Andrew Lippman. Both appointments are effective July 1... Breazeal will work with lab faculty and researchers to develop new strategic research initiatives... Most recently, Breazeal has led an MIT collaboration between the Media Lab, MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, and MIT Open Learning to develop, an online learning site for grades K-12, which shares a variety of online activities for students to learn about artificial intelligence, with a focus on how to design and use AI responsibly.
    While assuming these new responsibilities, Breazeal will continue to head the lab’s Personal Robots research group, which focuses on developing personal social robots and their potential for meaningful impact on everyday life — from educational aids for children, to pediatric use in hospitals, to at-home assistants for the elderly. Breazeal is globally recognized as a pioneer in human-robot interaction. Her book, “Designing Sociable Robots” (MIT Press, 2002), is considered pivotal in launching the field. In 2019 she was named an AAAI fellow. Previously, she received numerous awards...

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