Professor Seth Teller, roboticist, dies at 50

Professor Seth Teller, who made robots that work with people, died on Tuesday, MIT has announced. He was 50.

President L. Rafael Reif called Teller “a person of great human warmth and intellectual intensity” in an email to the MIT community yesterday.

“He was a brilliant engineer and a gifted advisor with a passion for new challenges,” Reif wrote. “His loss is difficult to grasp.”

MIT did not specify the cause of death in its news release.

At MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Teller led the Robotics, Vision, and Sensor Networks group, whose projects include wearable devices for people who are blind, a self-driving car, and voice-operated forklifts and wheelchairs that know their way around.

In addition, Teller led the MIT DARPA Robotics Challenge Team, which is slated to compete in the final round of the DARPA-sponsored competition next year. The prestigious competition was created in response to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and aims to promote the development of disaster-response humanoid robots.

Teller was active in the Cambridge community, helping to rally neighbors and found the Neighborhood Association of East Cambridge to protest redevelopment plans.

Teller became a full professor in 2007. He had joined MIT’s faculty in 1994 as an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Wesleyan University, and master’s and doctoral degrees in computer science from UC Berkeley.

Information about MIT’s support resources can be found at Those who knew Teller can share their memories by sending them to to be posted on the MIT DARPA Robotics Challenge Team’s website.