Rolf Pfieffer

Interview Location: Switzerland

Interview Synopsis

In this interview, Rolf Pfeifer discusses his work in robotics, focusing on artificial intelligence and locomotion. Describing the influence of human psychology and intelligence on his research, he outlines his early work with cognitive robots and AI and his later work in bio-robotics. He discusses the challenges and breakthroughs of his work and of bio-robotics as a whole, as well as the evolution of robotics throughout his career and its future applications and goals.


Rolf Pfeifer was born in Zurich, Switzerland. He received his master's degree in Physics and Mathematics, and his Ph.D in Computer Science from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. He then spent three years at Carnegie Mellon and Yale as a post-doctoral fellow working on computational models of emotion, artificial intelligence, and language. In 1987, he joined the Computer Science faculty at the Department of Informatics, University of Zurich, as well as became director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Pfeifer also worked as a visiting professor and research fellow at the Free University of Brussels, the MIT AI Lab, the Neurosciences Institute (NSI), the Beijing Open Laboratory for Cognitive Science, and the Sony Computer Science Lab in Paris. Retiring in 2014, he continues to serve as a professor at Osaka University and as a visiting professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. He was also elected Deputy Director of the National Competence Center for Research in Robotics (NCCR) in Switzerland, and as a member of the FET flagship pilot integration team. Pfeifer's research interests include bio-robotics, soft robotics, artificial intelligence and evolution, autonomous agents, modular robotics, self-assembly, and educational technology. His work include involvement in several robotics projects, over 200 scientific publications, and four published books.