Daniela Rus

Director, Computer Science and AI Lab (CSAIL) at MIT
Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT

The world’s leading authority on robots, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

Add to Shortlist Daniela Rus CSAIL


Member of the National Academy of Engineering
2014 Association for Computer Machinery (ACM) Fellow

Daniela Rus is at the very forefront of contemporary robotics. Her research is bringing cheap, easily produced robots into every part of contemporary life. Manufacturers will be able to create customised tools and processes on the spot to handle new product lines. Homeowners will be able to instantly create everything from custom appliances to playmates for their pets. It’s hard to underestimate the impacts of these developing technologies on the workforce and the markets of the future.

Daniela directs this groundbreaking research as Director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT. Her research group, the Distributed Robotics Lab, has built robots that can tend a garden, bake cookies from scratch, cut a birthday cake, fly in swarms without human aid to perform surveillance functions, and dance with humans. They have developed modular and self-reconfiguring robots, systems of self-organizing robots, networks of robots and sensors for first-responders, mobile sensor networks, techniques for cooperative underwater robotics, and new technology for desktop robotics.

She is leading the MIT Fifth Sense Project team with the Andrea Bocelli Foundation to 'develop wearable devices for blind and low-vision people. These devices combine sensing, computation and interaction to provide the wearer with timely, task-appropriate information about the surroundings — the kind of information that sighted people get from their visual systems, typically without conscious effort'.

Rus’ research interests include distributed robotics, mobile computing and programmable matter. At CSAIL she has led numerous groundbreaking research projects in the areas of transportation, security, environmental modeling and monitoring, underwater exploration, and agriculture. Daniela is also a champion of youth outreach, spearheading several programs that encourage students to pursue careers in computer science.

In addition to directing CSAIL and the Distributed Robotics Lab, Rus is a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. Prior to her appointment as Director of CSAIL, she served as its Associate Director from 2008 to 2011 and as the Co-Director of CSAIL’s Center for Robotics from 2005 to 2012. Daniela is the first woman to serve as director of CSAIL and its predecessors the AI Lab and the Lab for Computer Science.

Named the 2014 Association for Computer Machinery Fellow and elected to the National Academy of Engineering, Rus is also the recipient of the NSF Career Award and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow. She is a Class of 2002 MacArthur Fellow and a fellow of AAAI and IEEE. She serves on the scientific advisory board for the Max Planck Institute, on the editorial board for the Journal of Autonomous Robots, and on the long-term planning board for the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.

Rus earned her PhD in Computer Science from Cornell University. Prior to coming to MIT, Rus was an assistant professor, associate professor, and professor in the Computer Science Department at Dartmouth College.


Daniela tailors each presentation to the needs of her audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest her range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Computation and the Transformation of Practically Everything

The digitization of practically everything coupled with the mobile Internet, the automation of knowledge work, and advanced robotics promises a future with democratized use of machines and wide-spread use of robots, personalization, and customization – just try to imagine a day without the Internet the Web and all that they enable. The ability to connect sensing with computing is leading to a new world order with smarts everywhere. Recognizing that computation is at the core of these opportunities, students at MIT and elsewhere see computer science as the most popular subject. This is a very unique time to be working to advance the world through computing. This talk will discuss technology mega-trends centered on advancing computing and making the world a better place through computing.

Trends in AI and Robotics

In a world — not too far off — it will be as easy to program a robot to do your shopping or take a driverless car for a spin as it is to use a smartphone today. In this world rich with robots, self-driving cars could bring you to the store; they could be your friend who will talk with your refrigerator to let you know you are out of cat food, remind you to call your grandmother for her birthday, and warn you of a particularly big traffic jam and an alternate route. This is just an example, but I believe it represent what is possible in a world of continued breakthroughs in robotics. If we continue to rethink the nature of robotics — how to make it different, better, and more powerful — there’s no reason we can’t move this future from the realm of science fiction into the world of science and then reality. Advanced robotics, autonomous and near autonomous vehicles, the internet of things, and 3d printing are shaping as disruptive technologies with a very large projected economic impact of trillions of dollars in the next decade. At the root of these projections are several disruptive exponentials that are taking us on a path towards a future where everybody can have a robot to help with physical tasks. Yet there are several technological gaps that need to be filled to create this future. These gaps are the root of many technological trends in AI and robotics. This talk will discuss these trends.

Robots are coming

Imagine a future where robots are so integrated in the fabric of human life that they become as common as smart phones are today. The field of robotics has the potential to greatly improve the quality of our lives at work, at home and at play. I will discuss challenges toward pervasive use of robots and recent developments in customizing robots. What if we could automatically design, fabricate, robots, and program robots from a simple description of the task so that anyone could use a robot? What if robots could be better at figure things out? What if robots could be more adept at interacting with each other and with people? I will describe recent results in automating and customizing the fabrication of robots and enhancing their computational and communication capabilities. By enabling on-demand creation of programmable robots, we can begin to imagine a world with one robot for every task.

3D Printing and the Next Industrial Revolution

Imagine a future when desktop fabrication of complex systems is as easy and intuitive as printing on paper today. Personalized fabrication that takes place on the user’s desktop has the potential to democratize and customize fabrication and manufacturing. The consumer will be much more closely involved in the process. Personalized fabrication will be enabled by the next generation of 3D printing of smart objects that can move, sense, compute, and communicate. This talk will discuss recent results and trends in 3D printing and path toward wide spread customization and making.

Computational Thinking for Super Students

While technology is evolving at rapid pace, future leaders will need to understand it deeply. What is the role of computation along this trajectory? Computer literacy is as important as reading, writing, and mathematics. It is important to be computer literate because society depends on computation and technology for many things; it is important to understand technology, what it is good for and what it is not good for, and how to use it. In this talk I will discuss the role of computation for the education of future academic, business, societal, and government leaders. challenges toward pervasive use of robots and recent developments in algorithms for customizing robots.


How can many machines collaborate with each other and with humans to achieve a common goal? Swarms, otherwise known as distributed networked robot systems, consist of multiple robots that are connected by communication. In these systems the robots interact locally with the environment. The objective is for the system as a whole to have guaranteed global behavior. Swarms address how collections of robots can collaborate to achieve a larger task than each individual robot is capable of doing. This talk will cover the state of the art in algorithms and systems that (1) enable collaboration; (2) couple tightly communication, control, and perception; (3) are scalable and generally independent on the number of agents in the system; (4) have provable guarantees. An important theme in this work is self-organization: the study of computational processes that interact with each other and with the physical world and change to achieve system reconfiguration in response to the task requirements and the environment. Another important theme is creating increasingly more capable and autonomous robot systems that adapt to increasingly more complex environments and operate in response to increasingly higher-level instructions from the humans.

Learning from Data

Today, exponential improvements in technology are enabling a data revolution due to a proliferation of sensors, and more generally, an ease of creation of almost all information in digital form. Dramatic cost reductions in storage allow us keep all the data. Dramatic increases in network bandwidth allow us to move the data to where it is needed. How can we make most use of such vast amounts of data to enable smart decision-making? Decision making is often formulated as an optimization problem. When we need to solve an optimization problem we usually use the best available algorithm/software or try to improve it. In recent years we have started exploring a different approach: instead of improving the algorithm, reduce the input data and run the existing algorithm on the reduced data to obtain the desired output much faster. I will explain how and when this magical new paradigm works, and will show recent applications in machine learning, computer vision, text mining, and smartphone data analysis.

Self-driving cars

We spend a lot of time in out cars, yet this is a part of our lives where we have been vulnerable to the world's leading cause of bodily harm. Now, advanced robotics promises a future with extensive use of robots in our transportation systems. Self-driving cars have the potential to increase the safety and efficiency of our transportation systems and enhance the driving experience. In this talk I will address recent developments in self-driving cars. I will describe the state of the art in developing autonomous cars and mobility on demand with self-driving cars. I will also address some of the technological challenges and policy challenges ahead. I will then describe a scalable data-driven approach for developing mobility on demand systems with self-driving cars.

Intelligent Transportation

In the 1990s, Mark Weiser, the Chief Scientist of Xerox PARC said: “the most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” Transportation is moving in this direction. Many major car manufactures have announced self-driving car efforts in the recent past and this could mean that in the near future we would have affordable on-demand mobility for all. Meaning that going to where you want is a utility, conveniently available to anybody anywhere anytime even without a driver’s license. Furthermore, multiple sensors, powerful computing, control, feedback, everything that are putting the city in our fingertips. This talk will discuss the most recent advances in AI that are enabling mobility on demand, and the policy needs implications for a future where transportation will become a utility.

Humans, Machines, and the Future of Work

Today we can not live without computers.; rapid progress in computing over the past 50 years has made computing indispensible; computing has already transformed practically everything. At the root of these advances is the creativity of the inventors, along with several disruptive exponentials that enabled big technological leaps. An important consequence is the changing nature of our relationship with technology, which is rapidly accelerating. As a result, the world is undergoing a big change in the nature of work. In this talk I will discuss recent advances in computing and AI and their impact on job creation, job transformation, and wages in the labor market, with an emphasis on the skills required for the job market of the future and the education needed to prepare worker for it.


VM World 2016

One Robot for Every Task

Daniela begins at 4:47.

Robots and the Future of Jobs: The Economic Impact of Artificial Intelligence | Council on Foreign Relations

Fabrication in the Digital Age | IdeasLab 2014

Printable Robots Could Help Millions Cheaply | LiveScience


A global conference for virtualization and cloud computing:
Hi Daniela — I wanted to thank you again for your terrific presentation at [ . . . ]. While it was evident from the immediate audience that you were well received, we just got the formal feedback from the surveys and it bore out that enthusiasm as well. … I hope our paths will cross again in the future. Working with you was a pleasure.