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Famed roboticist awarded QUT Honorary Doctorate

13th December 2017

The founder of robots ranging from ones that dispose of explosives in war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan to a domestic vacuum to high performance collaborative bots has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate by QUT.

MIT Emeritus Professor Rodney Brooks is among the leading roboticists of the era and plays an important role in promoting QUT’s robotics research capacity.

Professor Brooks is an Australian roboticist, Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, a member of the US National Academy of Engineering, author, and robotics entrepreneur, most known for popularising an actionist approach to robotics.

Professor Rodney Brooks chats to QUT's Dr Juxi Leitner.


Companies he founded included:-

  • creation of the PackBot, used by US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq to dispose of explosives
  • PackBots also collected data in dangerous conditions at the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster
  • invented the autonomous Roomba vacuum cleaner
  • developed industrial manufacturing robots Baxter and Sawyer.

Professor Brooks was bestowed the honour during a graduation ceremony in Brisbane on Tuesday night after spending the day visiting the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision with QUT’s Distinguished Professor Peter Corke and meeting other leading researchers.

Key points:-

  • Honorary award formalises relationship between Professor Brooks and QUT
  • Professor Brooks says society needs more robotics to cater for the ageing population

He said he had great respect for the robotics and computer vision work happening at QUT, praising the team behind “Cartman” for winning first prize at the world’s Amazon Robotics Challenge in Japan this year. 

Professor Brooks told the graduation ceremony there were four megatrends that would profoundly change the world for the next 50 years; demographic inversion, urbanisation, climate change, and biotechnology (particularly the manipulation of genetic material).

Famed international roboticist Professor Rodney Brooks (centre) adds a Honorary Doctorate from QUT to his achievements, congratulating him are Professor Peter Coaldrake (left) and Chancellor Tim Fairfax.


He also highlighted trends about decreasing birth rates and longer life spans.

“Instead of working age people catering to the young it’s going to be working age people catering to the old … which means we need more automation,” Professor Brooks said.

“Many worry that robots will take away our jobs.

“I worry we won’t have enough robots to support the lifestyles that we all think are rightfully ours.”

Professor Brooks has been a regular visitor to QUT and was a key speaker at the MIT Entrepreneurship Bootcamp held at the Garden’s Point campus earlier this year.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Arun Sharma said robotics is one of the defining research strengths of QUT today.

“Professor Brooks played a very important early role in helping QUT establish its robotics research capacity,” Professor Sharma said.

He said the award of Honorary Doctorate was an acknowledgement of Professor Brooks’ contribution to QUT and formalised the relationship between him and the university.

The Australian Centre for Robotic Vision Chief Operating Officer Dr Sue Keay said Professor Brooks had single-handedly forged an explosion in the world’s population of robots due to his pioneering work in service robotics.

“This is an important connection to help boost home-grown technology,” she said.

Professor Brooks received a degree in pure mathematics at South Australia’s Flinders University before moving to the United States and gaining a PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1981.

He headed MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory for a decade before retiring to focus on his own robotics companies.

Media contact: Debra Nowland, QUT Media, +61 7 3138 1150 (Mon/Wed/Thurs) or
After hours: Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901

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