Apple ($AAPL) has hired a cofounder of Google X to work on its health initiatives. The new hire, Yoky Matsuoka, helped set up the semi-secret Google ($GOOG) division in 2009 after a career in academia that included the receipt of a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant for work in neurorobotics.
Full details of Matsuoka’s role at Apple are yet to emerge, but the work reportedly relates to the tech giant’s ongoing expansion into health care and research. Matsuoka will report to Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer whose responsibilities include oversight for ResearchKit, Fortune reports. The ResearchKit framework, which has enabled academic studies to quickly enroll large numbers of study participants and is increasingly attracting the interest of biopharma, is one of several efforts at Apple to incorporate its technology into healthcare.
Matsuoka’s background puts her in a position to potentially support these efforts in several ways. Prior to cofounding Google X, Matsuoka was best known for her work on robotics, which included the development of technology designed to help people who had suffered strokes or were otherwise disabled to use their limbs again.
In the years since leaving academia for industry, Matsuoka has pivoted away from robotics. A stint at Nest, the smart thermostat company acquired by Google for $3.2 billion in 2014, saw Matsuoka work on learning algorithms and user interfaces for its products. More recently, Matsuoka spent a stint in charge of Quanttus, a wearables developer focused on blood pressure monitoring. Quanttus raised $19 million in a Series A round in 2014, but its attempt to develop an accurate, consistent wrist-worn blood pressure monitor is reportedly taking longer than initially anticipated.
With Apple introducing Watch to track health metrics and ResearchKit to pool and analyze data--and certainly working on as-yet-undisclosed health-focused initiatives--Matsuoka’s background in related fields could prove valuable for the company.