Yoky Matsuoka - An excerpt from The Japanese Part of Me

Kumiko Kashii

January 24, 2021

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Neurobotics. It's the term Yoky Matsuoka created by combining neuroscience and robotics in the late '90s. She kick-started the development of robots that can read human brain signals.

Yoky was born in Japan and moved to California with her family when she was 16 years old. She trained and competed to become a professional tennis player. Despite her passion, she kept getting injured and decided to choose another path outside of tennis when she was in college.

Yoky chose to build robots, first approaching it from an engineering and computer science perspective. Then, she integrated the neuroscience perspective to create robots that could learn to interpret human brain signals. In 2007, Yoky received a MacArthur grant for "devising complex prosthetic devices and rehabilitation strategies that hold life-changing potential for those suffering from brain injuries and manipulation disabilities."

Two track mind, another term coined by Yoky, is a practice of fully committing to two things every day - for example, family and work. She wakes up and starts working at 3 a.m. until the early afternoon, and then she spends time with her husband and four children for the rest of the day.

After 10 years as a researcher and professor, Yoky co-founded Google's research and development unit (Google X) in 2009, joined Nest as Chief Technology Officer in 2010, and joined the HP Board of Directors in 2019.

"40 is so young. Actually my dad is 82 and he is starting a new company. I think it's never too late. If your brain is excited to learn new things, go for it. I think that's why it's so worth living in so many ways that we should just continue to learn." - Yoky Matsuoka

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