Top Women to Watch in the Robotic Industry

For International Women’s Day, we wanted to focus on women who are at the forefront of the latest technology, making contributions in AI, robotics, machine learning and more. They have dedicated their careers to furthering the industry with their extensive research, innovations, testing, and applications. Most of these women featured have earned numerous awards, are entrepreneurs, CEOs, or engineers in their respective fields, hold PhDs, are professors, have gathered millions in funding, or have started non-profits. These are some impressive CVs!

Fei-Fei Ling

As the Chief Scientist of Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning at Google Cloud, Fei-Fei Li has a mission to democratizing AI. She believes that “we all have a responsibility to make sure everyone–including companies, governments and researchers–develop AI with diversity in mind.”

Li is the leading expert in AI machine learning, having published over 150 scientific papers on the topic. She also built ImageNet–a 15 million image dataset that focuses on the latest developments in visual object recognition software research. She created AI4ALL, a group that supports AI education programs for underrepresented groups attending grade school through high school.

Cynthia Breazeal

As the founder & Chief Scientist at Jibo (a personal robotics company with over $85 million in funding), Cynthia Breazeal’s focus is on intelligent personal robots that interact with people to help them succeed in their personal goals and adding to their quality of life.

“I see social robots helping families with things that really matter, like education, health, eldercare, entertainment, and companionship,” Breazeal said in 2017.

Considered the “world’s first family robot,” Jibo helps busy families coordinate and connect with each other easier. Jibo is powered by voice recognition technology so that it can remember which family members are speaking so it can better assist in their daily needs. The robot also has educational programs that teach kids how to code.

Helen Greiner

Co-founder of iRobot, the company that created the vacuum robot Roomba. Currently, Greiner is the founder and CTO of CyPhy Works, which makes advanced drones for retail, commercial and military use.  CyPhy also works with the UPS Foundation and the American Red Cross to test the use of drones in disaster relief efforts.

Ayah Bdeir

Her company LittleBits Electronics teaches us how to build our own robots. She has raised $60 million for her award-winning kits of pre-assembled electronics components that are incredibly fun and easy to make.

The robot kits are color-coded and snap together with tiny magnets. The kits are used by everyone from teachers to companies prototyping new products.

Tessa Lau

Former CTO and Chief Robot Whisperer at the company Savioke — best known for making the first autonomous delivery robot for homes and the service industry – Tessa Lau led the early software team to develop the first-generation Relay system. This included designing many of Relay’s behaviors such as the delivery flow and elevator interactions.

She also ran a field operations group from the ground up, to scale robot installation, service, and support. She often found herself managing the operations of more than 75 robots in the field including at hotels. Lau’s expertise is in interfaces that combine artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction.

Jade Le Maitre

Jade Le Maitre, 30, is CTO and cofounder of Hease Robotics, a startup which develops autonomous customer service robots for shops, airports, museums and offices. The entrepreneur has raised $2.3 million since starting the business in 2016, and her droids have been deployed by the likes of Total oil and gas, construction group Vinci, supermarket chain Leclerc and France’s state-own rail service SNCF. Le Maitre says her mission is to put robots in public where they can solve everyday problems and inspire everyday people.

Christine Spiten

Christine Spiten, 28, also closed a $6 million dollar funding to develop her underwater drone business Blueye Robotics.

Spiten was interning at marine oil and gas giant Kongsberg when she first used underwater ROVs (remotely operated underwater vehicles). She cofounded Blueye Robotics with a dream to build an underwater explorer that anyone could easily control from their smartphone.

Today Blueye Robotics allows the curious and the eco-conscious to stay longer in never before seen ocean depths. The company’s $6,000 Pioneer drone can dive to 150 meters (that’s about the height of London’s BT Tower) and it is now being used by NGOs for ocean mapping and cleanups in Norway, the U.S. and Australia.

Karen Dolva

Founder of No Isolation and the brains behind the AV1—a small robot that allows sick children to stream lessons from their classrooms and keeps them connected to peers at school. Since its launch in 2015 the company has raised $6 million dollars. This is despite Dolva, just 28 years old, having no previous training in robotics.

Helena Samsioe

The entrepreneur is known as “the Drone Queen” for founding global drone service provider GLOBHE in 2015, a time where she says the industry was around 80% male. GLOBHE this year conducted the world’s first AI drone delivery, launching its patent-pending identifAI service to help the United Nations and other humanitarian actors deal with natural disasters.

Devi Parikh

Parikh’s Visual Question Answering research, which uses images to teach a computer to answer questions, combines computer vision, language and artificial intelligence. It has been lauded as having the potential to improve the quality of life for people with visual impairments.

Daphne Koller

Koller is the founder and CEO of insitro, a startup applying machine learning to speed up drug discovery and development and make the process cheaper and more efficient. The AI health market’s value is projected at $6.6 billion by 2021. She was also named one of Time’s 100 most influential people in 2013.

Cristina Zaga 

Ph.D. candidate whose doctoral research focuses on designing “robotthings”, everyday robotic objects and toys, to promote children’s prosocial behaviors in collaborative play. She studies how robots communicate intent and social qualities only through movement and nonverbal actions, defining a framework for non-anthropomorphic robots.

Ecem Tuğlan 

Co-founder of Fenom Robotics that builds World’s First Hologram Displaying Robot. She is also founder of Revulation4.0, world’s first digital and printable clothing label which release its first collection soon.

Deanna Hood 

Electrical engineer whose work focuses on humanitarian applications of engineering and robotics, with projects spanning accessibility, education and healthcare. Examples of her work include a brain-controlled car, with applications for people living with paralysis; a low-cost USB stethoscope for diagnosing childhood pneumonia in developing countries; and the first robotic partner for children with handwriting difficulties: a robot that children can teach how to write.

Cindy Bethel

Professor Cindy Bethel’s research at MSU ranges from designing social robots for trauma victims to mobile robots for law enforcement and first responders. She focuses on human-robot interaction, human-computer interaction and interface design, robotics, affective computing, and cognitive science. 

Danielle Applestone

While working at Otherlab, Danielle developed the Other Machine, a desktop CNC machine and machine control software suitable for students and funded by DARPA. The company is now known as Bantam Tools, and was acquired by Bre Pettis. Currently, Applestone is CEO and Co-founder of Daughters of Rosie, on a mission to solve the labor shortage in the U.S. manufacturing industry by getting more women into stable manufacturing jobs with purpose, growth potential, and benefits.

Wendy Moyle

Professor Wendy Moyle’s research focus is in the areas of ageing and mental health, specifically neurocognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Her research aims to achieve the best evidence possible for care of people with dementia and to reduce the distresses of the disease for the individual and their caregivers. She is internationally recognized for her research with social robots and assistive technologies.

Yukie Nagai

Professor Yukie Nagai is Director of the Cognitive Developmental Robotics Lab at the University of Tokyo, where she studies the neural mechanisms of human cognitive development using computational and robotic technologies, designing neural network models for robots to learn to acquire cognitive functions, in order to better understand the causes for social difficulties with among people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 

Sue Keay

Research Director for Cyber-Physical Systems within Australia CSIRO’s Data61 is at work on the DARPA Sub-T Challenge. The aim of the challenge is to develop innovative technologies that will augment operations underground. They are the only non-US team included in the Challenge. They are currently testing technology to rapidly map, navigate, and search underground environments.

Allison Thackston

Engineering Lead and Manager of the Shared Autonomy Robotics team at Toyota Research Institute. Her team focuses on developing advanced robotic teleoperation technologies that enable robots and people to seamlessly and safely work together. She was also the Lead Engineer for Robotic Perception on Robonaut 2, the first humanoid robot on the International Space Station.

Audrey Roberts 

Sophomore studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Southern California. At USC, Audrey does robotics research in Professor Maja Matarić’s Interaction Lab. Currently, she is excited to be working under PhD student Lauren Klein, exploring the ability of socially assistive robotics to increase exploratory motor movement. This research is aimed in particular at infants at risk for developmental delay.

Nicole Mirnig 

Researcher in social robots and human-robot interaction. She finished her PhD on essentials of robot feedback and her research focus lies in human-robot cooperation, taking into account different factors that foster a positive user experience. Her latest work is dedicated to systematically researching erroneous robot behavior. She aims at making robots understand that they made a mistake and react accordingly.

Dr. Laurel Riek 

Dr. Riek directs the Healthcare Robotics Lab at the University of California and leads research in human-robot teaming, computer vision, and healthcare engineering, with a focus on autonomous robots that work proximately with people. Riek’s current research interests include long term learning, robot perception, and personalization, with applications in critical care, neurorehabilitation, and manufacturing.

Melonee Wise

CEO of Fetch Robotics, which is delivering on-demand automation solutions for the logistics industry. She was the second employee at Willow Garage, a research and development laboratory extremely influential in the advancement of robotics. She led a team of engineers developing next-generation robot hardware and software, including ROS, the PR2 and TurtleBot.

For additional reading:

Women in Technology Announces Finalists for 21st Annual Leadership Awards

Professional women in the DMV recognized for unmatched talent, vision and mentorship

Techopedia – 7 Women Leaders in AI Machine Learning and Robotics by Rina Caballar
Silicon Valley Robotics – Women in Robotics on International Women’s Day 2019
Inc Magazine – Meet Top 5 Innovative Women to Watch in Robotics by Bonnie Burton
Forbes – Millennial Women are Building Million-Dollar Robotics Firms by Kitty Knowles
Robohub – 30 Women in Robotics You Need to Know About by Andra Keay, Hallie Siegel and Sabine Hauert