Remembering Joanne Pransky, World’s First RoboPsychiatrist

In celebration of the wonderful Joanne Pransky, World’s First RoboPsychiatrist, someone with an effervescent personality, curiosity, compassion and a commitment to supporting both social robots and seeing more women in robotics. Joanne spent her life working in comparatively industrial robotics areas and was usually the only woman in the room. But she went out of her way to make everyone feel welcome.

Joanne Pransky is an unusual participant in the leading edge of the robotics industry. That is, Service Robotics. With great good humor she professes to be the first robotics psychiatrist!

Joseph Engelberger

Father of Robotics

As ‘The World’s First Robot Psychiatrist’, modeled after Isaac Asimov’s Susan Calvin from the iRobot stories, Joanne brought the social side of robots to the forefront, long before robots were at all common. Not only did Joanne love robots in science fiction but she was at the forefront of the community developing social robots in real life.

She’s the very first Robopsychologist

Dr. Marvin Minsky

Co-founder / Artificial Intelligence

Joanne leaves us her collection of social robots which form the heart of the Museum of Robots at Silicon Valley Robotics and Circuit Launch 8000 Edgewater Dr Oakland. We continue to add to the collection of interesting robots and visitors are welcome.

I know that Joanne’s death came as a shock to many of her friends. Joanne didn’t want people to know she was battling terminal brain cancer, particularly when the last ditch treatments made her ill. Joanne only wanted to share joy with people, not sadness, and she wanted people to remember her life, not her illness.

The SF Bay Area memorial service was very small, and if you missed it there will be another one in Boston on July 25th. I believe there is a remote participation option but please contact Sherry Barone to confirm. We also have a digital guest book on the Museum of Robots page if you’d like to leave a message.

Please share this information!

She’s the real Susan Calvin

Isaac Asimov

We held off on posting news about Joanne’s passing until her memorial scholarship had been set up. In the meantime, Prof Robin Murphy shared a beautiful remembrance on her website which was reposted on

Brian Heater, of Actuator and TechCrunch also shared stories of Joanne, (and was able to include the just launched scholarship info). And as he says,

“You can also learn more about Pransky in her own words on her YouTube channel, RobotMD. This bit from her TEDx talk, Robot on the Couch, seems to sum up her mission statement best:”

Robots can assist us and improve our lives in so many ways, but they will not experience the human condition. They will not get butterflies in their stomach from doing a TEDx talk. They will not feel euphoria from laughing so uncontrollably hard that they cry. They will not empathize with the human heartbreak that comes from losing a loved one.

Robots are not the same as us and we should not use the same terminology to characterize their responses. Attributing an expression such as artificial empathy to a machine may only lead to confusion and the assumption that machines emote like us, especially as our view of what is artificial, and what is real, becomes blurred. Humans learn empathy from other humans face to face.

Joanne Pransky 2021 TEDx talk ‘Robot on the Couch’


Women in Robotics Scholarship Fund in Celebration of Joanne Pransky

At the request of family and friends, Women in Robotics, has set up scholarship fund to encourage more women to enter the field of robotics – across any discipline.

Contribute now


World’s First Achievements

  • Pioneered the field of Robotic Psychiatry
  • Dubbed by Isaac Asimov as the real Susan Calvin
  • Co-Founder of the world’s first medical robotics journal
  • Brought to the big screen (in the film, Ender’s Game) real users of worldwide robotic exoskeletons/prosthetics and surgical robots systems not yet commercialized
  • Debuted an international robot on the Jimmy Kimmel Live Show
  • First female and non-engineer to sell industrial robots
  • Obtained BattleBots first corporate sponsor

Learn more about Joanne Pransky


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