Seth Teller was a professor of computer science and engineering at MIT. As a colleague and mentor, his reflexive openness and friendliness were a delight; he always seemed to have something new to talk about, and he shared it in a way that drew you into the excitement that bubbled up from him. Seth had a child-like curiosity that drove him to tackle problems most people would find too ambitious.
The overarching theme of Seth’s research was making robots that work with, for, and as extensions of people. Among Seth’s many contributions, he developed robots that mapped city-scale environments ten years before there was a Google Street View and spear-headed the only entry in the DARPA Urban challenge that did not rely on dense GPS maps. Seth created assistive technologies for people with a variety of disabilities, from self-driving wheelchairs for the mobility-impaired to wearable machine-vision systems for the blind.
All of these projects were successful because Seth had a unique ability to envision new approaches to problems, then assemble, motivate, and guide large research teams to accomplish things far beyond what anyone thought possible. Seth was motivated by the desire to make the world a better place – whether it was to improve someone’s quality-of-life or to save a life. This award is meant to celebrate Seth’s legacy by showcasing papers that, in Seth’s own words, go “from impossible to possible in principle, to practical and usable by real people, and finally to devices that are affordable.”