By The Next List staff
Editor's Note: The CNN show "The Next List" is featuring roboticist Heather Knight this Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. We're celebrating by bringing you posts about robots all week! Check back on the "What's Next" blog for more, and follow the show on Twitter. We're @cnnthenextlist.
Meet Heather Knight. She’s a social roboticist -- a fancy term that means she makes robots that can interact with humans.
She and her sidekick robot, Data, get into all kinds of shenanigans together: They have a standup comedy act; they take acting classes together; they dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”; and they generally overturn any notion a person might have of a roboticist -- and a robot. Check out Data’s acting here. (He also does a mean Shakespeare!)
You probably won’t meet another engineer like Heather. Many roboticists spend the brunt of their time in a lab. Heather conducts her research in theater, comedy clubs and public spaces around the United States. She collaborates with actors, comedians, choreographers and artists. Why? To figure out how people relate to technology, and to gather research that will help her field make technology that is usable and enjoyable to the masses (think Siri on the iPhone.)
Heather is fascinated with the relationship between art and technology – and the role that charisma plays in bonding people to that technology. She envisions a world where robots replace computers and where technology is no longer isolating. She hopes for a day when the reality of a person sitting alone in a cubicle staring at a computer for hours no longer exists. Heather wants to help people flourish by creating great, usable technology -- and she’s having a lot of fun while she’s doing it.