IAAC is pleased to welcome back Madeline Gannon, a multidisciplinary designer and ‘robot whisperer,’ during the upcoming third term of the Master in Robotics and Advanced Construction (MRAC). Following her successful Workshop 3.2 on ‘Personable Robotics,’ Gannon will come back for the MRAC Workshop, where she will continue to empower students in shaping their distinctive perspectives on the future of human-robot relations.

During her last visit to IAAC, Madeline Gannon shared insights into her workshop and research in an exclusive interview with MRAC Co-director Alexandre Dubor, take a look.

What are you doing at the workshop here?
I’m teaching a workshop on personable robotics. It’s about how you breathe life into industrial robots and robotic arms and make them more human.

And how do you make robots more human?
I think this is a place where architecture has a lot to contribute in robotics. It’s really about understanding what’s happening in a space and how to communicate that knowledge to a machine. For robots, it’s oftentimes you send a geometry. And architects know a lot about geometry and space. And so what I’ve been teaching in the workshop is just how to bridge those two things to make them work together in a meaningful way.

So how do you imagine this new educational format we’re proposing, for example, the master here in robotics? Is it helping this new generation to jump in with this challenge?
What I see from the students that are within the workshop is that they don’t have a fear of learning something new. They have no hesitation in jumping into the unknown and seeing what they can bring, what parts of themselves they can bring to this new technology. We need to move to the future without fear and with the confidence that we have something worth contributing.

And do you think there is a need in the market for that?
Increasingly. There’s so many different directions you can take this knowledge from creating your own creative practice to working at a big technology company, writing robotic self-enumeration software, like what I do on my day-to-day job, to the future where there’s no defined job for it. For me, I didn’t set off to be a robot whisper. That job didn’t exist, and it exists now, but that’s where we’re at, our higher education at universities and colleges, and needs to prepare you for a future that is fluid. Maybe even when we started going to school, we studied architecture to become an architect. And what an architect is has changed dramatically over time. You see a lot of this with designers. You go to school, you become a designer. In the past 10 years, there’s now user experience and user interface design. That wasn’t a thing. That’s a new whole field. I see the same thing happening with architecture, with robotics, that there’s this blend happening between the humanistic side of how technology integrates with society, and then there’s the technical side of how to get the thing to work. What do we actually want this stuff to do?
And being able to have your foot in either side of that makes you a unique person person to be able to bridge that gap.

What is the skillset needed for the future job in front of us?
Technology is shaping our jobs. You’re not going to have one career your whole entire life. It’s going to shift and change, and you need to be able to shift and change with it. You have to be adaptable. You have to learn. You have to see opportunities and connections that are out there, but no one’s putting together yet.

Photo Credits: Madeline Gannon / ATONATON


About Madeline Gannon

Dr. Madeline Gannon is a multidisciplinary designer inventing better ways to communicate with machines. Her research studio, ATONATON, blends art and technology to forge new futures for human-robot relations. She strives to bring her work to diverse audiences by exhibiting at international cultural institutions, publishing at academic conferences, and through profiles and interviews with global media outlets, such as the BBC, the Guardian, the FT, BBC, WIRED, FastCompany, Dezeen, and The Verge. Gannon holds a Ph.D. in Computational Design from Carnegie Mellon University and a Master’s of Architecture from Florida International University. She is a World Economic Forum Cultural Leader, and is a Research Fellow at the Carnegie Mellon Studio for Creative Inquiry and the Robotics Fabrication Lab at Florida International University.

About the Master in Robotics and Advanced Construction

The Master in Robotics and Advanced Construction seeks to train a new generation of interdisciplinary professionals, capable of facing our growing need for a more sustainable and optimized construction eco-system. The Master is focused on the emerging design and market opportunities arising from novel robotic and advanced manufacturing systems.


Apply to the Master in Robotics and Advanced Construction today, the second Application Period for the Academic Year 2024/25 is now open.