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Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Josh Bongard, 33

Adaptive robots

University of Vermont

Josh Bongard's robot walks with a limp. But it's impressive that it walks at all.

As a postdoc at Cornell, Bongard collaborated with roboticist Hod Lipson and PhD student Victor Zykov to develop a robot that can adapt to changes in its body or in the environment--a key advance for robots designed to work outside a controlled laboratory setting. ­Bongard, now an assistant professor of computer science, begins by programming his robot with basic information about its design, such as the mass and shape of each of its parts. In his standard demonstration, he then disconnects one of its four legs. To get a sense of its handicap, the robot rocks back and forth, activating two tilt sensors. It then builds a virtual model of itself, using simulation software, and uses that model to test new ways of walking despite its handicap. Once the robot has developed a successful simulation, it attempts to walk using the same technique.

Rodney Brooks, professor of robotics at MIT, says that Bongard's work is interesting because it's inspired by the way biological systems adapt. To meet roboticists' future goals of creating self-configuring robots, Brooks says, "these sorts of ideas are going to be essential."

--Rachel Ross

2007 TR35 Winners

Sanjit Biswas

Cheap, easy Internet access

Josh Bongard

Adaptive robots

Garrett Camp

Discovering more of the Web

Mung Chiang

Optimizing networks

Tadayoshi Kohno

Securing systems cryptographically

Tariq Krim

Building a personal, dynamic Web page

Ivan Krstic´

Making antivirus software obsolete

Jeff LaPorte

Internet-based calling from mobile phones

Karen Liu

Bringing body language to computer-animated characters

Anna Lysyanskaya

Securing online privacy

Tapan Parikh

Simple, powerful mobile tools for developing economies

Babak Parviz

Self-assembling micromachines

Partha Ranganathan

Power-aware computing systems

Kevin Rose

Online social bookmarking

Marc Sciamanna

Controlling chaos in telecom lasers

Desney Tan

Teaching computers to read minds

Luis von Ahn

Using “captchas” to digitize books


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