2020 - Vijay Kumar

Vijay Kumar

Considered one of the top roboticists of his generation, Vijay Kumar’s vision and technical accomplishments have shaped the fields of cooperative and networked robotics and autonomous micro aerial vehicles. He developed several novel capabilities for swarms of ground and aerial vehicles ranging in size from micro to macro that can move in formation, transport objects, and operate both indoors and outdoors. Central to his work is the synthesis of decentralized controllers that allow a group of robots to produce a desired global behavior by coordinating only with their immediate neighbors. Kumar has also served as an advisor in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which was instrumental in increasing federal funding for robotics and cyber physical systems.

An IEEE Fellow and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, Kumar is the Nemirovsky Family Dean with the School of Engineering and Applied Science at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.

2019 - Zexiang Li and Frank Wang

Zexiang Li and Frank Wang

The aerial technology innovations of Zexiang Li and Frank Wang are fueling one of the most significant robotics developments of the past decade—the rise of the drone and its growing impact on society. Wang and Li were the first to dispel the stereotype that useful aerial robots were expensive and unwieldy, repositioning drones from luxurious toys to practical tools. They cofounded Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI), the world’s largest manufacturer and leader in consumer drones and aerial imaging technology. Their flight control systems have provided robotics researchers with platforms for research in visual navigation, collective robotics, simultaneous localization and mapping, and object detection and tracking. Among DJI’s many innovations are drones designed specifically for agricultural applications, autopilot drones for search and rescue, and camera stabilization technology that achieves movie-grade aerial footage for the motion-picture and film industry.

An IEEE Fellow, Li is a professor with the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clearwater Bay, Hong Kong, China.

An IEEE member, Wang is founder and chief executive officer of SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd., Shenzhen, China.

2018 - Matthew T. Mason

Matthew T. Mason

Matthew T. Mason’s contributions to advancing the mechanics of grasping and manipulation are essential to enabling robots to physically interact with the world. A proponent of minimalism in robotic manipulation, his innovative thinking provides simple solutions that allow robots to perform sophisticated tasks, such as parts feeders used for automatic assembly and packaging. He established the geometrical and mechanical foundations for robotic manipulation, and he pioneered pushing and planar sliding as important processes in manipulation. As founder of Carnegie Mellon University’s Manipulation Lab, Mason supervised development of the origami-folding robot, desktop mobile manipulators, scale-invariant grasping, throwing, striking, regrasp, and the use of simple single-actuator. He was also a key architect of the Robotics Roadmap that led to the National Robotics Initiative.

An IEEE Fellow, Mason is a professor of computer science and robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.

2017 - Oussama Khatib

Oussama Khatib

Oussama Khatib’s seminal work on robot planning and control has radically changed the basis of manipulation, interaction, locomotion, and other aspects of system design critical to the development of human-friendly robots. Khatib developed the artificial potential field concept for reactive control of robots, which became a fundamental framework for real-time obstacle avoidance. His pioneering contribution of control in operational space rather than joint space has been integral to advances in whole-body motion and force control, and in humanoid robotics. His group created macro-mini actuation for greater safety in medical robotics and in applications where humans work in close proximity to robots. Khatib’s recent work on a robotics-based approach to human motor control and human motion understanding is providing substantial benefits to restoring movement and improving human performance. His work on learning human skills and mapping to robot-compliant strategies is becoming fundamental to increasing the autonomous capabilities of robots in performing complex tasks and cooperating with people.

An IEEE Fellow, Khatib is a professor with the Department of Computer Science at Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA.

2016 - Raffaello D'Andrea

Spanning academics, business, and the arts, Raffaello D’Andrea’s career is built on his ability to bridge theory and practice. He was the faculty advisor and system architect of the Cornell Robot Soccer Team, four-time world champions at the international RoboCup competition. He was one of the first in the controls community to use a multi-vehicle testbed for research. At ETH Zurich, his research redefines what autonomous systems are capable of. He is co-founder of Kiva Systems, a robotics company that revolutionized material handling by deploying thousands of autonomous mobile robots in warehouses. He recently founded Verity Studios, a company developing a new breed of interactive and autonomous flying machines.

Prof. D’Andrea is Professor of Dynamic Systems and Control at ETH Zurich.

2015 - Rodney A. Brooks

Rodney A. Brooks

Rodney A. Brooks has revolutionized the field of robotics and redefined people's perception of robots and their capabilities. Challenging the mainstream approach to robotics during the late 1980s, Dr. Brooks championed real-time strategies of robot control that enable robots to act and react in in real-world environments. He created behavior-based robotics, providing the foundation for mobile robots that can operate in human-crowded environments and for socially interactive humanoid robots. Dr. Brooks co-founded iRobot in 1990 to provide consumer-market robots in the United States, such as the Roomba vacuum. He founded Rethink Robotics in 2008, which developed the user-friendly and safe Baxter industrial robot that is trained by to perform a task by a person directly manipulating its arms, showing it locations, fiducial markers and objects, and leading it through the steps of a task.

An IEEE Fellow, Dr. Brooks is chairman and chief technology officer with Rethink Robotics, Boston, MA, USA and the Panasonic Professor of Robotics Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA.

2014 - Shigeo Hirose

Shigeo Hirose

Shigeo Hirose’s unique approach to robot development has positioned him as a leading designer of snake-like and multilegged robots. Dr. Hirose is considered the founder of “biologically inspired” robots that demonstrate the types of movement found in naturally occurring biological systems. His pioneering work in snake-like locomotion began in 1972 when he was the first to demonstrate smooth, undulating motion of a snake-like robot. He developed the first terrain-adaptive quadruped walking robot, which can walk on stairs by using tactical sensors on its soles. Dr. Hirose’s snake-like and crawler-type robots are suited for areas deemed too dangerous for humans. His robots have been used for search and rescue missions, detecting and clearing landmines, and inspecting high-voltage power lines.

An IEEE Fellow, Dr. Hirose is professor emeritus of Tokyo Institute of Technology and chief technology officer of HiBot Corporation, Tokyo, Japan.

2013 - Ruzena Bajcsy

Ruzena Bajcsy

A driving force in the field of robotics for over three decades, Ruzena Bajcsy’s pioneering work on machine vision and perception has helped robots achieve humanlike performance. During the 1980s, she was the first to recognize that active perception was needed to improve computer vision/information acquisition. Active perception enables mobile robots to actively control camera positions and other image acquisition conditions. Dr. Bajcsy’s landmark work on computer vision also includes modeling of deformable objects, elastic model matching, and visual hyperacuity, which has had important implications for medical robotics and imaging. Dr. Bajcsy founded the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Laboratory in 1978 at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1998, she became the first woman to lead the National Science Foundation’s Directorate of Computer and Information Science and Engineering.

An IEEE Fellow, Dr. Bajcsy is the NEC Chair Professor with the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley.

2012 - Bernard Roth

Photo of 2012 IEEE Robotics and Automation Award recipient, Bernard Roth

Bernard Roth’s pioneering contributions to robot kinematics and design have shaped the field of robotics and provided the foundation for the advanced capabilities seen in today’s articulated robotic devices. Dr. Roth’s research on spatial linkage synthesis in 1967 led to development of the spatial curvature theory for mixed-motion design specifications for application to robots. In 1979, he co-authored (with O. Bottema) Theoretical Kinematics, considered by one reviewer as the best kinematics book of the century. The book also introduced screw theory to robotics, which had important implications for improving compliant motion in robotic devices. Dr. Roth and his students at Stanford have made innovative contributions to scientific and industrial applications of robotics, including coordination software used for industrial robots, the first continuous curvature (snake-like) robot, the Stanford Arm, and the original grasp matrix for multifingered hands. Dr. Roth’s most recent work focuses on new generations of human-friendly robot design.

Dr. Roth is currently the Rodney H. Adams Professor of Engineering at Stanford University, CA, and the academic director of Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design.

2011 - Hirochika Inoue

Photo of 2011 Robotics and Automation Award recipient Inoue

Hirochika Inoue’s pioneering work on robotics capabilities has provided critical components of today’s intelligent robots. In 1970, Dr. Inoue showed that force feedback was the key function for a robot to carry out dexterous manipulation like precise machine assembly. During the 1980s he explored visual guidance of robot motion with the development of a real-time robot vision system that enabled robots to interact with their environment and perform intelligent-like behavior. Applied to early versions of humanoids, this work set the standard for the use of vision in human–robot interaction seen in today’s Japanese robots. During the mid-1990s, Dr. Inoue and his students developed intelligent humanoid robots that not only walked but could also manipulate objects and act under visual guidance.

An IEEE Life member, Dr. Inoue is currently a Professor Emeritus of the University of Tokyo and advisor with the Digital Human Engineering Research Center, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Tokyo, Japan.

2010 - Toshio Fukuda

Toshio Fukuda

Dr. Toshio Fukuda is known as a pioneer in the field of Intelligence Systems for his research on Modular Robotic Systems called Cellular Robotic System “CEBOT.” Dr. Fukuda developed brachiation controllers, which are important for providing more natural movement in robots. Based on an ape’s brachiation (the pendulum-like movement involved when swinging from tree limb to tree limb), Dr. Fukuda and colleagues addressed “swing locomotion” and “swing up” behaviors resulting in a robot capable of continuous movement over several rungs of a ladder. He pioneered microrobotics technology including the microsensors and microactuators that make the miniature systems possible, and his medical intravascular microsurgery simulator has found commercial use. Dr. Fukuda has worked on three-dimensional manipulation of carbon nanotubes for nanosensors and nanoactuators, with implications for biotechnology applications. He has studied nanorobotic manipulation systems used for sample preparations and cell manipulation/evaluation with carbon nanotubes.

An IEEE Fellow, Dr. Fukuda is a professor in the Department of Micro-Nano Systems Engineering at Nagoya University, Japan.

2009 - Antal C. Bejczy

2009 - Antal C. Bejczy

Antal K. Bejczy has made unique and fundamental contributions to the understanding and use of robotic human–machine interfaces, including novel and important enhancing roles of automation.

During his career at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he pioneered the development of several innovative robot components such “smart hands” with “smart sensors” and a novel telerobotic system using a general-purpose force-reflecting hand controller for remote robot arm control that also serve the medical field. His work also led to the design of a precise microsurgical system and the development of the da Vinci surgical robot system by Intuitive Surgical, Inc., which offers less-invasive procedures. He was principal investigator of a flight experiment using a force-moment sensor enhanced “hand” on the space shuttle arm of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1994 and holds 43 NASA innovation awards.

An IEEE Life Fellow, Dr. Bejczy is retired as a senior research scientist from JPL in 2001. 

2008 - Paul Backes, Eric Baumgartner, and Larry Matthies

2008 - Paul Backes, Eric Baumgartner, and Larry Matthies

The individual works of Paul Backes (distributed and remote operations), Eric T. Baumgartner (manipulator control), and Larry Matthies (navigation systems) have advanced robotic technology, particularly rover operations, and made possible the scientific exploration of Mars. The three played individual roles in the overall integration of robotic technology used in space flight systems, particularly the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission Spirit and Opportunity rovers. The rovers are designed to carry out complex tasks safely, while exhibiting human-like qualities such as awareness, cognition, and judgment. The contributions of Backes, Baumgartner, and Matthies have broad significance to the robotics field in both terrestrial and space applications and have been widely cited in robotics literature. 

Dr. Backes, an IEEE member, is the technical group supervisor of the Mobility and Manipulation group in the Mobility and Robotic Systems section at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA. He conceived and led the development of an interface system, referred to as SAP (Science Activity Planner), that was used as the primary science planning tool in the 2003 MER mission, as well as providing a way for scientists and engineers to collaborate remotely. Dr. Backes holds seven patents and has written three book chapters, 15 journal articles and over 60 conference papers. He is a recipient of numerous awards presented by NASA. He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. 

Dr. Baumgartner contributed to the MER project as the lead systems, test, and operations engineer for the MER Instrument Positioning System. This system was responsible for the robotic deployment and placement of four in-situ, or “in place,” instruments onto the Martian surface using a five degree-of-freedom robotic arm. Dr. Baumgartner also served as the project element manager responsible for the development of the robotic sampling system on the next flight rover, the Mars Science Laboratory rover. He has published numerous papers and has received several awards for his work on the MER project. Currently, he is the dean of the T. J. Smull College of Engineering at Ohio Northern University in Ada, OH. He holds a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Notre Dame, IN; an M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Cincinnati, OH; and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame. 

Dr. Matthies, an associate member of IEEE, pioneered the development of algorithms for visual odometry and real-time 3D perception with stereo vision, and he contributed to algorithms for visual descent velocity estimation. These capabilities were incorporated into the MER mission, enabling landers to estimate horizontal velocity and rovers to detect obstacles and measure slip. Dr. Matthies’ work is the origin of the rovers’ visual abilities. He is currently supervisor, Computer Vision Group, and Senior Research Scientist at JPL. Dr. Matthies has twice received NASA’s Exceptional Achievement medal, holds two patents, and has published over 100 refereed papers. He holds a B.S. from the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; an M.S. in Mathematics from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada; and a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, in Computer Science. 

2007 - Gerd Hirzinger

Photo of Gerd Hirzinger

Gerd Hirzinger, director of the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics at the German Aerospace Center in Wessling, Germany, is best known for his work in advancing robotic space exploration. He developed ROTEX, the first remotely controlled space robot that flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 1993. The robot featured a multisensory gripper that allowed ground control based on “shared autonomy.” Along with his co-workers he teleoperated and teleprogrammed Japan’s ETS VII, the first free flying space robot, in 1999.

Since 2005, he has a small double-joint torque-controlled manipulator ROKVISS on the outside of the international space station ISS, thus demonstrating telepresence with stereo video and force feedback on one side and qualifying lightweight joints for space on the other side. His space mouse, originally developed for ROTEX teleoperation, has become the most popular 3D input device. More recently he and his co-workers have developed and commercialized surgical robots, artificial organs, load-reducing aircraft control and innovative brake by wire systems for vehicles.

An IEEE Fellow, he received Diplom-Ingenieur and doctorate degrees from the Technical University of Munich, Germany.

2006 - George A. Bekey

photo of George Bekey

Dr. George A. Bekey’s career of more than 40 years has significantly advanced the art of robotics and automation. His groundbreaking research and teaching in biomedical engineering, robotics, and system identification have greatly influenced the direction of such areas as humanoid development, human-robot interaction, and coordination and control of multiple robots.

Now professor emeritus in the computer-science and biomedical department at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, Dr. Bekey founded USC’s robotics research and teaching program, gaining both space and funding for the early robots and computers created in the school’s Robotics Research Laboratory. In his initial work, which was years before the current interest in automated transportation, he and his students modeled the behavior of human drivers in single auto lanes. His mathematical models in medicine and biology included those for respiration in the human fetus and adult and for human and animal gaits. This work also included the use of expert systems to diagnose gait malfunctions.

Dr. Bekey designed and built a number of robotic multi-fingered hands and the first quadruped walking robots in America, years ahead of similar efforts. He developed a knowledge-based approach to grasping, a key contribution to understanding the control dynamics of prosthetic hands. He also studied control architectures for groups of robots inspired by biology.

Dr. Bekey introduced the notion of parameter identifiability and near identifiability, which were used to assess the real-time health and structural behavior of large, flexible structures in space.

He has published more than 240 technical papers and two books and has edited or co-edited eight books.

An IEEE Life Fellow, he also is a member of the US National Academy of Engineering. Dr. Bekey is the founding editor of the IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation and the journal "Autonomous Robots." He is a founding member of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society and a recipient of the IEEE Third Millennium Medal, the IEEE Robotics and Automation Award, and the IEEE Robotics and Automation Distinguished Service Award.

He has a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, and master’s and doctoral degrees in Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles.

2005 - Seiuemon Inaba

By using a unique encoded command process to control machines and industrial robots, Dr. Seiuemon Inaba, honorary chairman of FANUC, Ltd. in Oshino-mura, Japan, helped make his company one of the world leaders in this technology. His pioneering concept of flexible automation systems is known as numerical control (NC). Early in his career, he developed NC for commercial purposes and invented the electro-hydraulic pulse motor for servomechanisms. This led to the rapid adoption of NC machine tools to reduce total cost in engineering and manufacturing. He is credited with being the first Japanese industrialist to build and operate an automated factory with NC machine tools and robots.

Dr. Inaba is former president of the Japan Society of Precision Engineering and a recipient of his country's highest honors, including the Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon and the Medal of Honor with Blue Ribbon.

2004 - Joseph Engelberger

Widely hailed as the father of industrial robotics, Joseph F. Engelberger possesses a rare vision of robots' potential to help humanity and has worked tirelessly to make that vision a reality. In 1961, Mr. Engelberger founded the groundbreaking industrial robot company Unimation Inc. in Danbury, CT, where he served as president and director until its 1983 sale to Westinghouse Electric Company. He next founded HelpMate Robotics Inc., also in Danbury, which developed the first successful service robot. He retired from the position of chairman in 1999.

Mr. Engelberger is working on a robot that would assist elderly and infirm individuals. A member of the US National Academy of Engineering, Mr. Engelberger has received the Japan Prize, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers-Leonardo da Vinci Award, and Columbia University's Egleston Medal. He has authored numerous articles and books, including Robotics in Practice and Robotics in Service.