Amazon hosted a secretive robotics conference in Florida


Machine-Learning, (Home) Automation, Robotics, and Space Exploration. Those four areas were the focus of the MARS conference that Amazon hosted at a resort in Florida over the weekend, and if this is your first time hearing about such a conference, that’s because Amazon was keeping it on the down-low for some reason. Only people that were invited could attend the conference, and among those invited were top researchers in the aforementioned fields, executive from major companies like Toyota, and even film director Ron Howard.

Robotics companies and academics descended on a resort in Palm Springs this week for an invitation-only conference organized by Inc. to bring together experts in artificial intelligence, robotics, home automation and space exploration. At the event, held at the Parker Palm Springs, there were robotic arms dueling with light sabers from Star Wars, seminars about imbuing machines with human values and a celebrity appearance by film director Ron Howard, known for his portrayal of Richie Cunningham in the sitcom Happy Days. Jeff Bezos mingled with attendees; one said he drank single-malt whiskey with Amazon’s chief executive officer. Representatives from companies such as Rethink Robotics, Toyota Motor Corp., and others attended the conference, called MARS, short for Machine-Learning (Home) Automation, Robotics and Space Exploration. Academics came from universities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California at Berkeley and ETH Zurich, people familiar with the matter said. “Seeing old roboticist friends and meeting new cool machine intelligence and space people @ MARS conference sponsored by @amazon,” Helen Greiner, the co-founder of iRobot and CEO of CyPhy Works, wrote in a tweet published on Monday. Greiner didn’t respond to an e-mail request for comment.

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