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Enumclaw grad's robot makes Top 10 list

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By Brenda Sexton-The Courier-Herald

Domo's drawing a lot of attention these days.

He's been seen batting his big blue eyes at Robin Roberts and Diane Sawyer on “Good Morning America” and featured with a few of his futuristic friends in the pages of The New York Times Magazine in July.

Monday, on news stands, Domo was featured as one of Time Magazine's Top 10 inventions for 2007.

“He's filling up his scrap book rapidly,” said his inventor, 1990 Enumclaw High graduate Aaron Edsinger.

Domo is a humanoid assistant. A robot, he can track objects with his eyes and grasp them with his hands. He can also accept, and carry out, simple commands much like a small child or a pet, Edsinger said. He can also talk.

Domo's sudden popularity is a welcome surprise to Edsinger, who's been working on the robot for years.

When Edsinger left Enumclaw High his interest was in art and he spent some time in the field, but he graduated from Stanford University in 1994 with a bachelor of science degree in computer systems engineering. He wandered to the art arena and then roamed back to science. He earned his master of science in computer science in 2000 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and recently returned to MIT to earn his doctorate. There he was a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

One of his first ventures into robotics was with experimental theater that involved staging performances that not only involved performers of the human kind, but the more metallic version.

“They were crude compared to what we're doing now,” Edsinger said. But he found a kinship between art and science and doesn't think it's a stretch to have moved from one into the other.

“For me there wasn't a great distinction,” he said,. “It's the same intellectual endeavor and enjoyment.”

At MIT he took his fascination with robotics to the next level. He's started a San Francisco-based company with friend Jeff Weber and colleagues from both Stanford and MIT called Meka Robotics, a company designed to develop and commercialize advanced robot technologies that improve and enrich people's lives. Started this year, they've designed some of the world's leading robotic systems, from intelligent, autonomous humanoids, like Domo, to medical training devices and energy-efficient robotic prosthetics.

The future, Edsinger said, is wide open.

Edsinger believes humanoids like Domo will be able to help the aging population with basic chores like putting away groceries or picking up around the house. He said these robots are likely to play a major role in the health care crisis.

“I'm excited to be a part of the application that brings robotics to real life,” he said. “I'd love to see the work, at least the technology, enter every day life and benefit people.”

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com.

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