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Dr. James McLurkin, 2019 Rachel Carson Lecturer

James McLurkin is a Sr. Hardware Engineer at Google. He is one of the leads on the AIY Project, which builds Artificial Intelligence (AI) hardware for Do-It-Yourself (DIY) maker projects. His top-secret plan for global change is to build things that help build more engineers. He is a recovering academic; as an Assistant Professor at Rice University his research was on distributed algorithms for multi-robot systems, which is software that produces complex group behaviors from the interactions of many simple robots. Previously, McLurkin was a Lead Research Scientist at iRobot and was the 2003 recipient of the Lemelson-MIT student prize for invention. He holds an S.B. in Electrical Engineering with a Minor in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, an M.S. in Electrical Engineering from University of California, Berkeley, and an S.M. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT.

Dr. McLurkin will present his talk: “The Future of Robotics is Swarms: Why a Thousand Robots are Better than One”

Multi-robot systems are the future of a futuristic field. Large populations of robots can solve many practical applications faster, cheaper, and in fundamentally different ways than individual robots. The key to realize this potential are distributed algorithms, and a whole lot of really cheap little robots. These ideas aren’t new; ants and bees have been using this approach for 120 million years, and we can learn much from them. This presentation makes the case for large populations of robots, and goes “under the hood” of algorithms that make them work. Key ideas are illustrated with a live 12-robot demo.

Some of Dr. McLurkin's Projects

James McLurkin
Stevenson, WA- OCTOBER 25-26: The Lemelson Foundation annual symposium. (Photo by Melanie Conner/ 206.499.7359)

Limor “LadyAda” Fried, of Adafruit, chats with James McLurkin about what AI really is, what engineers do, making things, and how AIY Vision and Voice kits help people learn about AI and solve problems in their own lives.