Our Founders’ Paths to TeddyBot

Patrick’s Journey

Patrick earned his PhD applying the science of child development to humanoid robots. He ultimately led the creation of seven humanoid robots during his doctorate– two of which, UBot-5 and Baxter, won Time’s Best 50 Inventions in 2008 and 2012. His deep involvement in the new frontier of robotics led him to be immensely concerned about data privacy– he saw early on that the feedback loops used to train robots could be applied to humans, with even greater impact. 

This led him to be a pioneer of self sovereign identity to ensure that people can own their own data and limit algorithmic harm through transparent self-oversight. He started ID2020 in 2014 to provide access to Self-Sovereign Identity to billions of individuals who have no identifiers, limiting their ability to interact in global systems. 

He has since built many other robots, including CORO (see below)– a Collaborative Robot that can be remotely operated via VR headset and hand controls. He was also the lead architect of a blockchain transaction system that was designed to be the world’s fastest, with over 1 million transactions per second. Lastly, he builds community-centric art and was one of two co-founders and technical lead of the Tree of Ténéré Burning Man art piece (see below).

TeddyBot is the culmination of his life’s work in robotics, data privacy, community-building, and Web3.

uBot-5 Throwing a baseball

uBot-5 presenting with Bill Gates.

CORO: Watercoloring

Tree of Ténéré, Burning Man 2017. Credit: Patrick Deegan.

Katie’s Journey

Katie has always been curious about how and why people make decisions, which led her to study social neuroscience and international security as an undergrad. It was a unusual combination but turned out to be ideal for researching propaganda and the shaping of social norms through the manipulation of the information ecosystem. Her Master’s in Media Studies investigated the influence of partisanship on perceptions of false information. She conducted computational propaganda research with experts around the world as the research manager of the Digital Intelligence Lab at the Institute for the Future. While there, she also investigated the impact of emerging technologies and conducted ethical tech trainings. As the senior researcher at the Propaganda Lab at the University of Texas at Austin, she researched a wide range of topics, including the politicization of social media influencers. After exploring the issue from the think tank and academic perspective, she worked for Common Sense Media as an advocate for federal and state laws protecting kids online. Due to the Congressional gridlock limiting action, she accepted an offer from TikTok to lead the misinformation, media literacy, elections policy and strategy for US/Canada.

Her main finding after years of studying “bad” actors online who share hateful content or harmful conspiracies is that many are in search of identity, purpose and community and have been waylaid by fear and hate-based rhetoric. She is passionate about supporting communities and finding levers of change that can uplift and create equity. She is deeply concerned about the state of education, especially early childhood education and literacy, and is overjoyed about the positive impact that TeddyBot can have through empowering whole generations of young people and their families.

You can find her research and public speaking on LinkedIn and Twitter, and here are a few pieces of writing that may be of interest:

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