Asakawa Named National Academy of Inventors Fellow

Aaron AupperleeThursday, December 14, 2023

Robotics Institute faculty member Chieko Asakawa has been selected as a National Academy of Inventors fellow, the highest professional distinction awarded solely to inventors.

Chieko Asakawa, a faculty member in Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, has been selected as a National Academy of Inventors (NAI) fellow, the highest professional distinction awarded solely to inventors.

"This year's class of NAI fellows showcases the caliber of researchers that are found within the innovation ecosystem. Each of these individuals are making significant contributions to both science and society through their work," said NAI President Paul R. Sanberg. "This new class, in conjunction with our existing fellows, are creating innovations that are driving crucial advancements across a variety of disciplines and are stimulating the global and national economy in immeasurable ways as they move these technologies from lab to marketplace."

Asakawa co-leads the Cognitive Assistance Laboratory at CMU's School of Computer Science. She is also an IBM Fellow at the T.J. Watson Research Center, IBM's headquarters for research in Yorktown Heights, New York.

Blind since a swimming accident at age 14, Asakawa has furthered research and development into technologies that enhance accessibility for people with disabilities for three decades. Her work to help develop digital Braille and voice browsing has made the internet more accessible. She has also led projects such as NavCog, an indoor navigation app designed for the blind and visually impaired; and CaBot, an AI suitcase that allows people with visual impairments to travel independently.

Asakawa is listed as an inventor on 43 U.S. patents that range from technology that allows a webpage to be understood and read aloud by a computer to using voice commands to direct a computer's actions. Her patents also include the technology behind the IBM Home Page Reader, which opened the internet to the visually impaired.

"I have been employed by IBM Research for 54 years, and I have met and known many, many outstanding scientists, engineers, mathematicians and other technologists. I learned of Chieko's innovations more than a decade ago, and I have always been astounded at how valuable her contributions are," said James Wynne, a senior researcher at the IBM Watson Research Center who nominated Asakawa for the NAI honor. "Starting in 2016, I worked on getting her inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, which culminated with her induction in 2019. Chieko and her accomplishments serve as a great inspiration to me to continue my own career as a scientist and inventor."

Asakawa's previous honors include induction into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame, the Women of Vision Award from the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, the Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon from the emperor and government of Japan, induction into the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame for her Home Page Reader patents, the American Foundation for the Blind Helen Keller Achievement Award, and the Okawa Prize from the Okawa Foundation for Information and Telecommunications. She is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery, the National Academy of Engineering and the IBM Academy of Technology.

More information about the Cognitive Assistance Lab and Asakawa's work is available on the lab's website. Visit the NAI's website to learn more about the 2023 class of fellows.

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Aaron Aupperlee | 412-268-9068 |