Yoky Matsuoka once served as innovation director at Google and chief technology officer at nest. She won the famous MacArthur “genius” award in 2007. She is also a professor at the University of Washington and directs the sensory motor nerve Engineering Center and nooroopic laboratory.
But when she started building her own new business, her ideas did not immediately turn to robots or artificial intelligence. The personal assistant service, yohana, was launched in September.
Instead, the new service relies on human assistants at the front desk and center, who can help with tasks such as arranging haircuts and preparing snacks for children’s football games.
Matsuoka said she wanted to help people now, not later.
“So when I think so, there must be someone in the equation,” Matsuoka said at the kiquil summit in Seattle on Tuesday. Yohana only focused behind the scenes on developing technical tools and data repositories to support human assistants.
“I’m not trying to belittle mankind,” she said. “I’m actually trying to improve the technology experience.”
Yohana’s career actually began not from science, but from the tennis court. As a teenager growing up in Japan, she is on the road of professional tennis player, but she is marginalized due to a series of injuries. “Fortunately, I love math and science,” she said. “Instead, I built a robot for myself to play tennis.”
She has never produced that perfect tennis partner. But during her graduate school at MIT, she focused on Robotics and conducted research in the field of neuroscience. “I learned how to process workshops, I learned everything from scratch, I learned artificial intelligence – I also made a humanoid robot with arms and hands,” she said. Later, she worked as a scholar at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the University of Washington (UW), focusing on artificial intelligence, robotics and assistive technology.
She said the MacArthur award was a turning point in her life. One night after mother MacArthur died, she received a phone call with an 8-day-old baby in her arms. When she picked up the phone, the foundation asked, “do you have anything fragile in your hand?” she said, “yes.” they called her half an hour later and told her the $500000 bonus.
She said: “I am a girl who grew up in Japan. I rely on technology a little late. I always feel a little insecure about myself.”. “But this award allows me to say that, in fact, some people like me are OK. So I can go further, maybe I can say more, maybe I can create more things, and I should be confident.”
Panasonic, the robot pioneer Yoko Matsuoka, launched a personal assistant service in Seattle
When silicon valley called, she was ready. “I made robots to help people with physical and neurological diseases. But I’m not for them now. I’m writing papers, writing grants and drawing pictures of the future, but it doesn’t feel right. I’m just itching. I can’t catch it,” she said.
At Google, she co founded the R & D Laboratory of Google X company. Later, she served as a senior executive at Apple. In addition to working at nest, she also served as the CEO of quantum, a wearable health technology startup. Recently, before she founded yohana last spring and served as CEO, she served as vice president of Google healthcare.
Yohana is an American subsidiary of Panasonic Corporation of Japan, and Matsuoka is the executive president of Panasonic Corporation. Matsuoka of the company, which has a history of more than 100 years, said: “the founders of Panasonic want to really change people’s happiness. Their products include washing machines.”. The idea is to “give women extra time so that they can do what they want to do.” this core mission is consistent with yohana’s mission. Yohana’s goal is to make people’s life easier.
Matsuoka’s experience of caring for children at home during the influenza pandemic has also accelerated people’s interest in yohana. She knows that parents all over the world are experiencing similar struggles. “It’s impossible for a busy family to magnify what has happened,” she said.
She used her past experience to create a company with innovative and scalable culture and prospects. “When I worked in a big company, I knew I could achieve scale, but things went very slowly,” she said.
Matsuoka also talked about her foundation to help children learn differences, her work at Apple and Google, and the launch of her new company in Seattle during the pandemic. Some other highlights of her geekwire Summit:
On the reason why she chose Seattle to launch yohana: “there are many busy families of millennials living here. Their pain point is exactly what I pursue. I want to make sure they will say, ‘bullseye! You succeeded!'” she added: “I think Seattle is a good place to do it now.”
Matsuoka used MacArthur award funds to establish a foundation ykyworks to support children with learning differences and dyslexia. Her two children were dyslexic, and she learned that she was dyslexic, too. “When I watched my son take the exam, I was standing backstage as a mother. I was trying to take the exam with him, ‘I can’t do these things myself!’ so it was a great discovery,” she said.
This summer, she started driving a hybrid car in yohana herself, bringing her team back together. At first, she said, they spent a lot of time socializing, but within a few weeks, the synergy together improved efficiency. “One of the lessons learned from pandemics is that humans sometimes still need to be together.”
She compared the environment of apple and Google. She said that Apple has a “complex structure and works very beautifully. And it is so design oriented that they can produce beautiful user-oriented products again and again.”. “Google just reverses this. Therefore, it is more about bottom-up innovation. In a 20% project, you can do something interesting at work while getting paid,” she said. “It is precisely because of this ability to create and innovate that people’s inner passion is stimulated, and they can also create many amazing things.”