Innovation at the Interface: Technological Fusion at MIT

author: Edward B. Roberts, Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
author: Rodney A. Brooks, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
author: Robert S. Langer Jr., Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
published: Sept. 3, 2013,   recorded: January 2004,   views: 2543

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When disciplines converge, innovation results. To prove the point, two inventers offered rich and varied examples from their respective areas: artificial intelligence and biomedicine. Rodney Brooks describes robots exploring dangerous bunkers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and intelligent prosthetic limbs. He predicts that in a few decades, helper robots will be as prevalent as computers are today. Aging baby boomers, says Brooks, will insist on remaining in their own homes as long as possible. They’ll require high tech caretaking, as well as entertainment and education opportunities. Brooks believes that low-paid assisted living jobs, as well as agricultural and manufacturing work, will gradually migrate to smart machines. Robert Langer has a string of remarkable biomedical inventions to his credit. He tells us that not so long ago, sausage casing was used for dialysis tubing and mattress stuffing for breast implants. Langer turned the medical world on its head by creating new materials for clinical application: chemical compounds for skin grafts and for targeted cancer therapy. He has created an artificial scaffold for tissues and organs that may also help rebuild spinal cords. The latest research involves microchips that can deliver precise doses of drugs, and respond by remote control like a garage door opener.

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