Apple has hired famed robotics expert Yoky Matsuoka, a former head of technology at the smart thermostat maker Nest before it was acquired by Google and one of the co-founders of the search giant’s X Lab, a research and development unit tasked with conceiving moonshot projects.
According to her LinkedIn profile, she won a MacArthur Foundation grant in 2007 for a neurorobotics project that helped disabled people and stroke victims regain the use of their limbs. Fortune has confirmed with an Apple representative that Matsuoka will work on health-related initiatives at the Cupertino firm.
Getting another chance on life
She will report directly to Apple’s Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams who is charged with leading Apple’s global health initiatives such as HealthKit, ResearchKit and CareKit, among his other responsibilities.
In a Medium post last May, titled “Getting Another Chance on Life,” Matsuoka revealed that after leaving Nest she was headed to Twitter until being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Following the effective treatment of undisclosed illness, she made the decision not to join Twitter after all.
In this 2014 video, Matsuoka can be seen discussing how brain signals can control prosthetic limbs, and other advances in the hybrid field of neuroscience and robotics.
After moving to the United States from Japan, Matsuoka attended the University of California where she developed strong interest in robotics. At MIT, where she got a Ph.D., Matsuoka helped develop a revolutionary robotic arm.
She also spend a decade at Carnegie Mellon University as the director of the neurobotics laboratory and the University of Washington in Seattle as a professor of robotics. One of her students at Carnegie Mellon was Matt Rogers, who co-founded Nest with former Apple engineer and “iPod Godfather” Tony Fadell.