In the futurist world, success comes not only from seeing farther than others, but from the ability to refine what you see and make it tangible. Vision followed closely by invention can push us through tough times.

Luckily, visionaries and inventors are separate species of the same genus. Visionaries dream. They think about how the world could change. Inventors build. They turn dreams into things.

But universities are still where the most far-fetched and futuristic innovations develop. MIT is where we found Cynthia Breazeal, whose socialized robots could someday baby-sit for your kids or stand in for you at a meeting. Informed by the diverse disciplines of electrical and mechanical engineering, psychology, human-computer interaction, education, and design, her work benefits from the intellectual cross-pollination that happens so easily in an academic setting. “Sure, you can get access to materials and people from other disciplines at conferences,” she says. “But being in an environment where I bump into those people every day and have spontaneous conversations at the coffee machine certainly exposes me to ways of thought that I wouldn’t get if I were isolated.”

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