Rolf Pfeifer received his masters degree in physics and mathematics and his Ph.D. in computer science from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland. He spent three years as a post-doctoral fellow at Carnegie-Mellon University and at Yale University in the US. Since 1987 he has been a professor of computer science at the Department of Informatics, University of Zurich, and director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
Having worked as a visiting professor and research fellow at Free University of Brussels (Belgium), the Beijing Open Laboratory for Cognitive Science (China), the MIT Artificial Intelligence laboratory in Cambridge, Mass. (US), the Neurosciences Institute (NSI) in San Diego (US), and the Sony Computer Science Laboratory in Paris (France), he was elected “21st Century COE Professor, Information Science and Technology” at the University of Tokyo, Japan, for 2003/2004, from where he held the first global, fully interactive, videoconferencing-based lecture series “The AI Lectures from Tokyo” (including Tokyo, Beijing, Jeddah, Warsaw, Munich, and Zurich). In 2009 he was elected as a "Fellow of the School of Engineering at The University of Tokyo". He is also a visiting professor at the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa, Italy and at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.
His research interests are in the areas of embodiment, biorobotics, artificial evolution and morphogenesis, self-reconfiguration and self-repair, and educational technology.
He is the author of the book “Understanding Intelligence” (with C. Scheier) and “How the body shapes the way we think: a new view of intelligence,” MIT Press, 2007 (with Josh Bongard) which is written in popular science style (no specific prior knowledge required). Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic translations of “How the body …” are to appear shortly, "Designing intelligence - why brains aren't enough" (with Don Berry and Josh Bongard), and "Gérer l'imprévu" (with Alexandre Pitti; in French).
Rolf Pfeifer is currently setting up the “The ShanghAI Lectures 1.1”, a mixed-reality lecture series which was broadcast from Jiao Tong University in Shanghai in 2009, and will be broadcast from Zurich in 2010. On-line interactive videoconferencing will be mixed with 3-D virtual collaborative environments. The project has the goal to build a world-wide cross-cultural community and knowledge source in embodied intelligence and related areas.