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IEEE-USA/NAS Hollywood Forum describes engineering trends for entertainment industry professionals

WASHINGTON (9 September 2011) -- Three leading sci-tech experts described engineering trends for entertainment industry professionals at a forum convened earlier this summer at the Directors Guild in Los Angeles. IEEE-USA is collaborating with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Science & Entertainment Exchange to help Hollywood professionals tell realistic stories about engineers and scientists that engage the public in television, movies and games.

Maja Mataric, who develops socially assistive robots that provide personalized human-machine interaction, told some 150 entertainment professionals that robots can assist individuals with autism, in stroke rehabilitation, as well as with Alzheimer's and dementia: "People respond to co-present, physical caregivers. They form relationships, even with machines." Dr. Mataric is an IEEE Fellow and professor of computer science, neuroscience and pediatrics at the University of Southern California.

Randi Wessen, who has worked on multiple spacecraft searching for Earth-like planets around other stars, asserted: "When it comes to space exploration, we're not even out of the driveway. We're only exploring things in our front yard." Dr. Wessen is deputy manager of the Project Formulation Office at Caltech's Jet Propulsion Lab.

According to Francis Arnold, Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology: "I began my career by studying astronomy, but found that I didn't need to look to the stars for wonder or magnificent complexity -- it was all around me in the cellular world. I now study how nature solves problems so I can then figure out how to solve others."

Jon Spaihts, screenwriter for Ridley Scott's forthcoming "Alien" prequel, "Prometheus," and the Hollywood forum's moderator, enthused: "I hope this auditorium is filled with storytellers whose imaginations are magnified by what they hear tonight, and think about things like chemistry and robots in ways they never have before. I know that these sorts of fertile conversations have directly influenced my own storytelling."

The forum, including questions and answers, can be viewed in a special public access presentation on at

For a recap in text of the Hollywood forum, see


Contact: Pender M. McCarter

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