Robots in our pockets? CSAIL panel discusses future of computing at SXSW Interactive

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by Adam Conner-Simons

From social networks to smartphones, computer science has never played a more central role in our lives, completely transforming how we communicate, work, learn, shop and entertain.

As industry leaders like Google grow more interested in what’s happening in robotics labs, many questions remain. Where will innovation in data and artificial intelligence go next? Which fields will be most intensely impacted? And will we have personal robots in our pockets in the next decade?

These topics were discussed by four of CSAIL’s leading researchers at a special panel on the future of computing March 10 at SXSW Interactive, an annual technology festival in Austin, Texas.



Currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first forays into the study of computer science, MIT has long been at the forefront of computing innovation - its researchers include the inventors of spreadsheets, data encryption, Ethernet and the World Wide Web.

The SXSW panel featured four CSAIL principal investigators:

- Tim Berners-Lee, who 25 years ago this month invented the distributed hypertext system that we now know as the World Wide Web.

- Andrew Lo, an economist whose unconventional ideas - like using financial engineering to solve problems in medicine, energy and the environment - landed him on the TIME 100. 

- Moderator and CSAIL Director Daniela Rus, whose projects include self-assembling Transformers-style robots and printable bots that can be created in less than an hour out of paper and off-the-shelf electronics.

- Russ Tedrake, who helped develop a robotic ostrich that can outrun Usain Bolt and robotic birds that can make knife-edge maneuvers at speeds of 50 mph.

Berners-Lee’s talk on “What is the web we want?” touched on online privacy and the future of the web as it applies to how our information is gathered and shared.
Lo discussed the nature of risk within the finance industry, and presented new methods for managing risk and maintaining privacy that employ specific computation techniques from cryptography.
Tedrake talked about recent advances in robotics research, including developments in the recent Department of Defense-funded “DARPA Robotics Challenge” featuring humanoid robots in disaster-relief scenarios.
Learn more about the panel on the SXSW website: