Raj Reddy, MS '64, PhD '66, begins work on what will become the first computer system capable of recognizing continuous natural speech. He continues to advance the technology as an associate professor at Stanford (1966-69) and later as a professor at Carnegie Mellon.
1966 to 1972: Shakey
Nils Nilsson, PhD '58, and his colleagues at Stanford Research Institute's Artificial Intelligence Center develop the first mobile robot with the ability to sense its environment—via a TV camera "eye" and whisker-like feelers—and plan a course of action to complete a task.
1969: Stanford Arm (aka Vicarm)
Victor Scheinman, MS '65, Engr. '69, invents a 6-degree-of-freedom, all-electric, computer-controlled robotic arm, an improvement over the Unimate Arm, the first commercial industrial robot, which operated by hydraulics and stored instructions on a magnetic drum.
1960 to 1980: Stanford Cart
Originally built by James L. Adams, MS '59, PhD '62, to study the feasibility of controlling a lunar explorer from Earth, the cart is elaborated by a series of graduate students over two decades, culminating with Hans Moravec, PhD '80, who outfits the cart with stereovision, enabling it to autonomously navigate a chair-filled room. (It takes 5 hours.)
1987: Da Vinci System
Philip S. Green, MS '67, at SRI, Joseph M. Rosen, MD '78, at Stanford, and Army surgeon Jon Bowersox collaborate to produce the "telepresence surgery system"—key components of which inform early da Vinci prototypes. Frederick Moll, MS '88, founds Intuitive Surgical in 1995 to refine and commercialize the system.
John R. Adler, a professor of neurosurgery at the School of Medicine, invents a surgical robot that uses X-rays to locate tumors and deliver a preset dose of radiation. The first patient goes under the CyberKnife at Stanford Hospital in 1994.
A Volkswagen Touareg modified by a team of Stanford AI researchers led by Sebastian Thrun and Mike Montemerlo autonomously navigates a 132-mile desert racecourse in less than seven hours, winning the $2 million DARPA Grand Challenge prize.