Tessa Lau

Founder/CEO at Dusty Robotics

Sunnyvale, CA


Office Hours

How does this work?

My passion is creating businesses around technology that gives people super-powers. I love to build and lead teams who are inspired to make the impossible possible. I have expertise in robotics, computer science, AI, machine learning, and data analytics. I am a generalist but also enjoy diving deep to solve thorny systems issues. She/her. If you want to connect to me, please add a note indicating how we've met or why we should connect. You can also reach out to me directly at tlau@dustyrobotics.com. Formal bio for conferences/events/media: Dr. Tessa Lau is an experienced entrepreneur with expertise in AI, machine learning, and robotics. She is currently Founder/CEO at Dusty Robotics, whose mission is to create robot-powered tools for the modern construction workforce. Prior to Dusty, she was CTO/co-founder at Savioke, where she orchestrated the deployment of 75+ delivery robots into hotels and high-rises. Previously, Dr. Lau was a Research Scientist at Willow Garage, where she developed simple interfaces for personal robots. She also spent 11 years at IBM Research working in business process automation and knowledge capture. More generally, Dr. Lau is interested in developing technology that gives people super-powers, and building businesses that bring that technology into people’s lives. Dr. Lau holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Washington. Recent awards: Inc's Top 5 Innovative Women to Watch in Robotics, 2018 SVBJ Woman of Influence, 2017 Fast Company's Most Creative People, 2015

Ask me about
Work experience

Apr 2020 - Present

Silicon Valley Robotics

Vice President, Board of Directors

Advise the Silicon Valley Robotics executive team on developing programs to support the robotics community in Silicon Valley and beyond.


Apr 2018 - Present

Dusty Robotics


Dusty Robotics creates robot-powered tools for the modern construction workforce. As founding CEO, I've grown the company from inception, through customer discovery, to raising several rounds of venture capital, and bringing our first product to market with delighted customers. Dusty is hiring! See our website for more information: http://dustyrobotics.com/


Sep 2013 - Mar 2018


CTO and Chief Robot Whisperer

Along with several other Willow Garage alumni, I co-founded Savioke in fall of 2013 with the goal of building robots that would do useful work in the real world. I led the early technical team to develop the world's first hotel delivery robot, doing everything from full-stack web development to robot network architecture to designing behaviors to make Relay behave well around people in elevators. Later, I led an operations team to solve challenging problems around streamlining robot installation and supporting robots in the field at scale.


Sep 2013 - Jan 2014

The Data Guild



Sep 2012 - Aug 2013

Willow Garage

Research scientist

I led a research effort to develop an end user programming framework for personal robots, culminating in a platform that enabled us to rapidly prototype new robotics applications. I developed several front-end applications using Ember.js, as well as implemented large chunks of functionality in the back-end server which essentially re-implemented a CPU in software to execute multi-threaded robot programs. In addition, I prototyped several experiments using new interaction modalities for robot teleoperation. I developed a prototype using the ASUS 3d depth sensor to have the robot mirror a human's arm position, and I developed a speech-recognition-based interface for voice-only control of a robot.


Feb 2012 - Sep 2012


Research Staff Member

As an individual contributor, I developed new technologies for human-centered information interaction to enable people to understand big data more effectively.


Sep 2009 - Feb 2012


Research Staff Member and Manager

I managed the Smarter Web research group to invent technology that changes the way people build and interact with the web. Projects included: tools for authoring, debugging, and testing web applications to speed development time and enable the creation of better applications; cloud solutions that enable rapid deployment of web applications; tools for capturing, reusing, and analyzing user interaction patterns on the web and sharing these insights with others.


Sep 2005 - Sep 2009


Research Staff Member

I led research on end user programming, human-computer interaction, and intelligent user interfaces. I led the CoScripter team in developing a wiki-like repository for business process knowledge, using end user programming techniques to lower the barrier for people to document and automate their how-to knowledge. Other projects included relationship-oriented computing (investigating the use of relationships to help people manage personal information), social people-tagging (leveraging the community to describe others' expertise in an organization), and email-based activity management (inventing tools for automatically organizing email by the user's activities).


Sep 2001 - Sep 2005


Research Staff Member

I conducted research on programming by demonstration, machine learning, and intelligent user interfaces. I led a team to productize programming by demonstration in IBM's next-generation office productivity product, to help users automate repetitive word processing tasks. I also led a team to develop the Sheepdog and DocWizard systems, both programming by demonstration systems for capturing and disseminating technical support procedures.


1998 - 1998


Research summer intern


1995 - 2001

MS, PhD, Computer Science

1991 - 1995

BA, BS, Computer Science, Applied & Engineering Physics

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