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Cynthia Breazeal, the co-founder and former CEO of Jibo, a now closed consumer robotics company, has been named dean for digital learning at MIT. Breazeal will begin the position on February 1.
Breazel is a professor of media arts and sciences at MIT and has served as the senior associate dean for open learning since the fall. She is the director of MIT RAISE, a research effort focused on advancing AI education for K-12 and adult learners, and the founder and head of the Personal Robots research group at the MIT Media Lab.
“Cynthia brings to the deanship a remarkable combination of experience and expertise. She consistently displays an outstanding facility for leadership and collaboration, bringing together people, ideas, and technologies in creative and fruitful ways,” vice president for Open Learning Sanjay Sarma wrote in his letter to the community. “Cynthia is an ambassador for women in STEM and a trailblazer in interdisciplinary research and community engagement.”
In 2012, Breazeal founded Jibo, a social robotics company named after its flagship product. Jibo could see with two hi-res cameras, this allowed it to recognize and track faces, take pictures and enable video calling.
Despite raising nearly $72 million in venture capital and raising more than $3.5 million in a 2014 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, the company shut down in 2018. The company faced a number of issues, including competition from Amazon, Google and other companies making similar products for lower price tags.
Jibo’s IP was acquired by NTT Disruption in 2020, but things have been pretty quiet publicly ever since.
As dean, Breazeal will oversee business units and research initiatives focused on developing technologies for learning, including MIT xPRO, Bootcamps, Horizon, the Center for Advance Virtuality, MIT Integrated Learning Initiative and RAISE.
“The work that Open Learning is doing to extend the best of MIT’s teaching, knowledge, and technology to the world is so thrilling to me,” Breazeal said. “I’m excited to work with these teams to grow and expand their respective programs and to develop new, more integrated, potentially thematic solutions for corporations and professionals.”
Breazeal will continue to lead the Personal Robots research group as dean.