Sebastian Thrun
By: Joseph Garrett Witowski
CSCE 221H – Spring 2014
A (Brief) Biography
• Born May 14, 1967 in
Solingen, West Germany
• Graduated the University
of Hildesheim, Germany
in 1988 with a B.S. in CS,
economics, medicine
• 1995, obtained Ph.D. in
CS and Statistics from
University of Bonn,
Work History
• In Academia:
– 1998-2003: Carnegie Mellon University – Assistant and (since
2001) Associate Professor of CS, Robotics, and Automated
Learning and Discovery
– 2003-2007: Stanford University – Associate Professor of CS and
(since 2006) EE
– 2007-2011: Stanford University – Professor of CS and EE
– 2011-present: Stanford University – Research Professor of CS
– 2011-present: Google Fellow
• In the corporate world:
– 2007-present: Principal Engineer, Google Inc.
– 2011-present: Google X Labs, Founder
– 2012-present: Co-founder and CEO, Udacity
Research Areas and Notable Projects
Probabilistic Robotics
2005 DARPA Grand
Challenge, Stanford
Racing Team Lead
• Google’s Self-Driving
• Google Street View
• Udacity
Robots and SLAM
– Simultaneous Localization and Mapping
– 2 Aspects: Environment Mapping and Pose
– Method: Take initial measurements, identify
landmarks, move, update odometry-based
position, re-measure and re-identify landmarks,
extrapolate updated position from landmark data
Thrun and FastSLAM
• The “old way” of doing SLAM had some
– Slow – O(n2) in number of landmarks
– Worked only for small environments
– Had issues with Data Association
• FastSLAM
– Runs in logarithmic time (O(M logn))
– Can scale to large environments
– Can handle dynamic environments
• In 2011, Thrun offered his first e-course, “Online
Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” from his
living room
– Over 160,000 people enrolled in the class
– Thrun offered this class free of charge
• In 2012, Thrun announced Udacity – originally
offering “Massively Open Online Courses”
• In 2013, Thrun stated Udacity had “a lousy
product” and that courses would no longer be
offered for free
Awards and Recognitions
• 2007
– Member, National Academy of Engineering
– Member, German Academy of Sciences
• 2008
– PC World list Best 100 Products of 2008 (Google Street
• 2010
– IEEE ITSS Distinguished Researcher Award
• 2011
– Max Planck Research Award
– Huffington Post Best of TED 2011
Opinions – “Why You Care”
• Thrun’s research is revolutionary
• His research and work is improving the world
around us (think about street view)
• The potential applications (and benefits) of his
work go far beyond their apparent face-value
– Robotic seeing-eye dogs?
– Reduced traffic?
• The possibilities are essentially limitless
Work Cited
"About Us." - Udacity. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2014. <https://www.udacity.com/us>.
"DARPA Grand Challenge." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 01 June 2014. Web. 20 Jan. 2014.
Homepage Sebastian Thrun. Stanford, n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2014. <http://robots.stanford.edu/>.
N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2014. <http://robot.cc/images/SebastianThrun805.jpg>.
N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2014.
"Sebastian Thrun." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Jan. 2014. Web. 20 Jan. 2014.
SLAM for Dummies: A Tutorial Approach to Simultaneous Localization and Mapping. Tech. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2014.
Thrun, Sebastian, and Michael Montemerlo. FastSLAM: A Factored Solution to the Simultaneous Localization and
Mapping Problem. Tech. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2014.
Thrun, Sebastian. Probabilistic Algorithms and the Interactive Museum Tour-Guide Robot Minerva. Tech. N.p., n.d. Web.
20 Jan. 2014. <http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~thrun/papers/thrun.ijrr-minerva.pdf>.
Thrun, Sebastian. "Sebastian Thrun's CV." N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2014. <http://robots.stanford.edu/cv.pdf>.
"Udacity's Sebastian Thrun, Godfather Of Free Online Education, Changes Course | Fast Company | Business
Innovation." Fast Company. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2014. <http://www.fastcompany.com/3021473/udacitysebastian-thrun-uphill-climb>.

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