Industry leaders, top executives, and big-name celebrities were in attendance at Amazon’s inaugural re:MARS conference. The Aria in Las Vegas held a diverse crowd of astronauts, engineers, artists, and NBA players, as well as the founders and co-founders of Aurora, Coursera, and iRobot.
Amazon’s Dave Limp said of the guest list, “We have people in the audience that invented the core foundations of robotics and the internet itself… We even have a Golden Globe winner, an Olympic gold medalist, and five NBA championship rings represented in the audience tonight.”
Needless to say, the re:MARS conference was an enormous event. Attendees from 46 countries came together to view the latest innovations, with an address from actor and producer Robert Downey Jr. After everything was over, few left dissatisfied with what they saw on stage.
So what were the most memorable moments of the conference? We’ll walk you through five of them, detailing a few highlights you may have missed.
1. New Package Delivery Drones
Amazon debuted a new version of its package delivery drone, fully electric and ready for release in a matter of months. With a range of 15 miles, they’ll have the capacity to carry packages under five pounds to customers in less than 30 minutes. The drones are part of a larger initiative by Amazon to reduce delivery times.
They announced their intentions for a Prime Air delivery service back in 2013, but since then, their plans have undergone many changes. After more than two dozen designs for its delivery drones, Amazon finally settled on the current model. With any luck, this iteration will prove successful.
2. Autonomous Stunt Robots
Disney Research presenters Morgan Pope and Tony Dohl spoke on the development of their team’s acrobatic robots. The machines are capable of landing flips, rolls, twists, and similar feats with amazing precision. According to Pope and Dohl, the trick was to master the laws of angular momentum and velocity.
Though autonomous stunt robots would undoubtedly allow for a greater degree of safety on a Hollywood set, the technology is far from gracing the silver screen. Even so, the robots from Disney Research showed incredible promise at this year’s re:MARS conference, with one of them even performing a triple backflip.
3. Atlas From Boston Dynamics
On the subject of robotics, Boston Dynamics also appeared at re:MARS to demo their latest innovation. The Massachusetts company specializes in highly articulated utility robots, and Atlas was certainly something to see. It’s a bipedal humanoid robot that uses electrically powered and hydraulically actuated joints.
Founder Marc Raibert talked at length about his company’s invention, speaking more about its design. “The Atlas robot has a number of 3D-printed and carefully innovated elements that give it very high levels of mechanical and physical performance that really dovetail with the kinds of controls we do.”
4. Interview with Jeff Wilke
Jeff Wilke, the CEO of Amazon’s worldwide consumer business, gave his very first television interview in his current role. Wilke isn’t new to the company, having served as CEO for three years out of the nearly two decades he’s worked for the company – but the interview itself is indicative of something more significant.
Tom Forte, an analyst at D.A. Davidson, speculates that the interview was a new strategy by Amazon to shift attention away from Bezos. The company’s founder and CEO has always remained squarely in the spotlight, but the conversation with Wilkes was potentially an effort to show more of Amazon’s leadership.
5. The Footprint Coalition
Robert Downey Jr. addressed the audience with the same calm, easy confidence that fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will recognize. He touched on the history of AI, the difficulties of fame and his struggles with addiction, never shying away from sensitive subject matter like inclusion in the tech industry.
He also took the opportunity to announce the Footprint Coalition, a new organization with a focus on the environment. “I’m going to get actual smart people around me, and then in 11 years, when I’m 65, if we’ve made a notable dent in what I think is a massive threat to our future, I’m going to throw the nuttiest retirement party you’ve ever seen…” Downey added, “And you’ll be invited.”
Looking Toward the Future
With an impressive selection of advanced robots, fascinating insights about Amazon and an inspiring address from one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, the re:MARS conference was certainly memorable. We can’t wait to see what happens next year, but until then, it’s exciting to speculate.