Ayanna Howard Speaker

Ayanna Howard

Former NASA scientist on the cutting-edge of robotics and artificial intelligence

Ayanna Howard: Biography highlights

Professor Ayanna Howard, a leading expert on developing and applying robotic technology for the benefit of humans and distinguished professor at Georgia Institute of Technology builds robots with expanded intelligence and emotional capabilities that help humans in business, health care, education and daily tasks.

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Full biography of Ayanna Howard

About Ayanna Howard

For decades, society has imagined ways in which robots would be part of the future – evolving from autonomous vacuum cleaners to the full-fledged robo-housekeeper from “The Jetsons.” Today, we are at the very beginning of fulfilling this prophecy.

To get there, Professor Howard says we need to think rationally about our future relationship with robots. An energetic and gifted speaker, she offers crucial insight to business leaders seeking novel growth strategies through robotics and AI, as well as those who finance the most cutting-edge technological breakthroughs of the 21st century.

Howard, the Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Professor and chair of the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech, began developing robots while working within NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. After arriving at Georgia Tech, she transitioned to building similar machines for use in education and health care.

In her TED Talk, she argues the key to ensuring that robots help, rather than harm, humans is to program them to closely follow human behavior and psychology. This enables robots to establish trust with humans, and renders them useful learning partners, empathetic sounding boards, and relatable companions to people who lack the ability to socialize. As robots become more commonplace in daily life, the answer to the question of how we control them will be to make them more human, more like us.

Beyond explaining the core principles of robotic development for non-scientific audiences, Professor Howard specializes in specific applications of the technology, including use in pediatric and general health care, and education. She is also an expert on how human biases – including racial and gender discrimination – can be unwittingly programmed into robots and AI. As she trains the next generation of female and underrepresented groups of roboticists, Howard warns developers to keep a keen eye out for such unconscious transmissions of prejudices as robots and AI become increasingly integrated into everyday functions and communications with the public.

Widely recognized as a leader in her field and a crucial voice in the ongoing debate over the challenges and opportunities of robotic technology and AI, Howard realized a gap in the education technology market.

Armed with scientific principles and an entrepreneurial spirit, she founded the educational technology company Zyrobotics in 2013, where she also serves as the chief technology officer. Her work and accomplishments have been the subject of numerous articles and profiles, including in Time Magazine, USA Today, and Black Enterprise. Named by MIT Technology Review as a top young innovator and one of the 23 most powerful women engineers by Business Insider, her work has been featured in more than 200 peer-reviewed publications, reflecting her reputation as the foremost pioneer in human emotion-centered robotic design. Most recently, Howard received the 2018 Richard A. Tapia Achievement Award for Scientific Scholarship, Civic Science and Diversifying Computing from the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in Information Technology.

Before embarking on a career in robotics with NASA, Professor Howard earned her doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California; a bachelor’s degree from Brown University; a master’s in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California; and an MBA from Claremont University’s Drucker School of Management.



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Make robots smarter - Ayanna Howard
Make robots smarter - Ayanna Howard
Healthcare Robotics for Therapy - video lecture by Dr. Ayanna Howard
Healthcare Robotics for Therapy - video lecture by Dr. Ayanna Howard

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