*In anticipation of the Friday March 6 release of the Sony Pictures film, “Chappie,” Ethe spotlight is on the incredibly brilliant and passionate electrical engineering roboticist specializing in humanized intelligence, Dr. Ayanna MacCalla Howard.

Dr. Ayanna MacCalla Howard

Dr. Ayanna MacCalla Howard

Dr. Howard was first inspired by the hit television show, Bionic Woman as a young middle school girl. In fact, she wanted to create the “Bionic Woman.” Dr. Howard describes that in order to build a proper robot, they have to be able to conform to a human including their movement, desires, needs and behaviors, which is what sparked her entire interest. She then pursued her education by receiving a B.S. from Brown University, and both her M.S.E.E and Ph.D from the University of Southern California. Dr. Howard also mentors young Black girls who are interested in robotics and science helping them build the confidence to know that being smart is cool and to have the courage to continue exploring the scientific world–a world dominated by white men. Her research has garnered many acknowledgments and accolades including over 100 peer reviewed publications, 12 featured articles, including being named as one of the world’s top young innovators of 2003 by the prestigious MIT Technology Review journal and in TIME magazine’s “Rise of the Machines” article in 2004.

One of her projects showcased at her segment leading a famous “Ted Talk” and her the focus group called the Human-Automation Systems Lab can be seen below:


How cute is that robot! Despite the childlike affinity one might  have towards this blue-eyed robot, Dr. Howard addresses the stigma and fear portrayed in movies that instills fear into human beings that robots could over day take over the world. She states, “There shouldn’t be a fear about robots not taking command and controlling the world, but it is important to start having the conversation so that in 20 to 30 years from now when we do have the technology to do those kinds of things we have the understanding of what’s allowed and what’s not allowed, what to do and what not to do.”

Dr. Howard also feels that there are beneficial elements that allow for robotics to be used as resources for mankind, especially given the fact that we as a group are living much longer. For example, if someone is 90 years old and needs assisted living, a robot could act as a resource and potentially save the person from needing to live in a geriatric home.

Below is a video of Dr. Howard’s groundbreaking “Ted Talk”–but before you watch that, make sure to check out the Chappie trailer to see what all the exciting talk is about!

Dr. Howard’s “Ted Talk”