Robotics Pioneer Brooks Called to Jury Duty—at Sundance Film Festival

1/15/09Follow @bbuderi

I know for a fact that robotics guru and Xconomist Rod Brooks was looking forward to next Thursday’s Xconomy Battle of the Tech Bands 2, both because it’s across the street from his Central Square-based Heartland Robotics company—and because he’s spoken enthusiastically about rocking out with us several times.

So it was a blow when he e-mailed me that he can’t make it because he’s going to be out of town. I was readying my protest until I clicked on the link he sent me by way of explanation: Turns out Brooks is one of 24 privileged people called to sit on juries for the Sundance Film Festival, which opens today in Park City, Ogden, Salt Lake City, and Sundance, Utah. The event runs through Jan. 25, several days after the Battle.

Brooks will be sitting on the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation jury, one of six juries at the festival. Its job is to award the Alfred P. Sloan Prize to “the writer and director of an outstanding feature film focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer, or mathematician as a major character,” according to indieWIRE.

“I don’t really know how this came about,” Brooks wrote me, “but perhaps it has to do with this thing I did out in LA in November.” Then he sent another link (guess he likes links) to a story about a symposium he took part in, led by Family Guy’s Seth McFarlane, that discussed new technologies for science and entertainment. Brooks also has a film-industry connection through Bedford, MA-based iRobot, which he co-founded. He and fellow iRobot founders Helen Greiner and Colin Angle (who had a small part in last year’s film 21, about the MIT blackjack team) appeared in the 2004 documentary Sentient Machines: Robotic Behavior. Before that, Brooks landed a spot in the 1997 Errol Morris film, Fast, Cheap and Out of Control.)

Whatever the reason for his jury selection, we wish him a great time. Ski on, Watch on, Rod.

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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