Maja Mataric, 34
University of Southern California
The human capacity for working together in groups is deeply rooted in our evolutionary history and we often take it for granted. Robots are starting to get some of that same capacity thanks to Maja Mataric, director of USC’s Robotics Research Laboratory. Mataric and her students have been developing techniques to enable groups of robots to communicate with one another, coordinate activities and even learn from one another. Examples: Two robots using algorithms her group developed to cooperate in an effort to move a box, groups of robots working together to move in formation, groups that learn "social rules" such as sharing information and yielding to one another. "I cannot think of a single paper dealing with group robotics which does not refer to Dr.Mataric’s work," says George Bekey, founder of USC’s robotics program.