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

Ayanna Howard, 31

Writes programs that more intelligently guide actions of robots

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Electrical engineer Ayanna Howard sees a future in which humans and machines work together to explore new terrain. Today’s planetary rovers- suitcase-size robots that move on wheels- must be remotely controlled by human operators, a labor-intensive and imprecise process. So Howard, who weeks at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, developed artificial-intelligence software that mimics the decisions humans make about where to land spacecraft and how to navigate robots safely. Loaded onto a rover’s computer, Howard’s software can process information from maps and video cameras and automatically find a safe path between two points, in real time. The rover can thus avoid craters instead of trying to negotiate their edges- at great risk to multimillion-dollar equipment. Rovers equipped with Howard’s software are now used by forest rangers in Idaho to map loggings shattered by earthquakes or bombs. In 2001, Howard won the Lew Allen Award, JPL’s highest honor for leadership and innovation.

2003 TR35 Winners

Geoffrey Barrows

Gives unmanned reconnaissance planes insect vision

Serafim Batzoglou

Devises powerful tools for assembling and analyzing genomes

Cynthia Breazeal

Constructs robots whose expressive faces convey humanlike emotions

Ian Clarke

Pioneered software that delivers Web files quickly, anonymously

Andre DeHon

Designs architectures needed to build practical molecular computers

Daniel Gottesman

Works to improve quantum computers so they can speed drug design and perform other massive computing tasks

Kathryn Guarini

Fabricates three-dimensional integrated circuits that could vastly increase computer power

Vic Gundotra

Sparked Microsofts change to .Net

Andrew Heafitz

Invented inexpensive rocket-based surveillance systems

Steven Hofmeyr

Devised software that roots out security threats to a networks operating system

Mike Horton

Engineers tiny sensors that can be spread like crumbs around a battlefield or factory

Ayanna Howard

Writes programs that more intelligently guide actions of robots

Kevin Lee

Integrates photonics and electronics on chips to speed telecommunications

Desmond Lim

Develops high-volume manufacturing lines for making optical chips into commodities

Michael OConnor

Designed an automated tractor steering system that is saving farmers bushels of money

Joe Pompei

Delivers "spotlights" of sound for use in concerts, museums, and automobiles

Jovan Popovic

Makes simpler, more powerful animation tools for novices and professionals

Thomas Reardon

Tailors Internet application to cell phones

Torsten Reil

Employs simulations of human movement to create realistically animated characters

Heike Riel

Built large, bright, organic video displays using materials dismissed by contemporaries

Maximilian Riesenhuber

Programs computers to recognize objects the way the human brain does

Linda Rottenberg

Helps entrepreneurs in emerging nations turn innovations into business

Ted Sargent

Fashions photonic circuits that could speed voice and data to homes

Tim Sibley

Serves up customized audio and video gems

Alex Vasilescu

Transforms computers ability to recognize human faaces

Lorraine Wheeler

Codes software that makes handheld computers handier

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto

Builds brain-imaging machines that are faster and cheaper than magnetic-resonance imaging equipment

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