John Hollerbach

Interview Location: United States

Interview Synopsis

In this interview, Hollerbach discusses his pursuit of, and career in, robotics. Outlining his career at the AI Lab, he describes the research environment, and the interactions and collaborations of fellow researchers. Reflecting on the evolution of robotics and his involvement in the Year of the Robot and other robotics projects, he later comments on the current state and challenges of robotics and its future development and applications.


John Hollerbach was born in Marktheidenfeld, Germany to Hungarian-German refugees. He lived in Germany for five years before moving to Detroit. He received a B.S. in Chemistry and M.S in Mathematics from the University of Michigan in 1968 and 1969, respectively. He worked briefly as chemist for IBM (1969-1971) while taking artificial intelligence and computer science courses at Syracuse University. He later applied to MIT, where he worked as a Research Assistant in the Artificial Intelligence Lab and completed a S.M. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 1975 and 1978, respectively. Following graduation, Hollerbach continued at the AI Lab as a Research Scientist of the Department of Psychology. He went on to serve as Assistant Professor (MIT: Department of Psychology, 1982-1985), Associate Professor (MIT: Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, 1985-1989), NSERC/CIAR Professor of Robotics (McGill University: Department of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, 1989-1994), and finally Professor of the School of Computing and Research Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah (1994-present). His research involves robotics, virtual environments, human motor control, and haptic interfaces. In 1984 he was awarded the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation, and was named Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and IEEE Fellow in 1988 and 1996, respectively. He later received a Distinguished Service Award from the IEEE RAS in 2012.