This week, Amazon hosted an exclusive conference that brought together big names from fields such as space exploration, robotics, and artificial intelligence. The event, which was held at the Parker Palm Springs Resort in California, was invite-only and received almost no publicity.

Very little is known about the Machine-Learning Automation, Robotics, and Space Exploration (MARS) conference, which is leading some observers to question why Amazon is being so secretive about it. In fact, Amazon has yet to confirm that it even took place, and there have been no press releases or official announcements. However, several guests have shared tidbits about the event on social media.

For example, iRobot co-founder Helen Greiner tweeted about attending:

“Seeing old roboticist friends and meeting new cool machine intelligence and space people @ MARS conference sponsored by ‪@amazon

Photos have also emerged showing a robot serving drinks and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on stage at the conference wearing a robotic suit. Guests came from organizations with a strong interest in related fields such as the University of California Berkeley, MIT, Toyota Motor Corp, Rethink Robotics, and ETH Zurich.

It is believed to have been a small gathering of just over 100 guests. The invitation read “Many great humans are attending (not to mention some extraordinary robots).”

Some of the conference’s events included demos, talks, making axes and using them to split wood, and trying out various virtual reality devices. Director Ron Howard and author Dan Brown held talks at the event, and there was also a display of robotic arms having a duel with Star Wars light sabers.

Amazon looking to expand robotics operations?

Amazon has been interested in robotics for quite some time, and the conference seems to indicate that they might be looking to ramp up their efforts in this realm in the near future. They currently have tens of thousands of Kiva robots in their warehouses, and they have recently been rumored to be considering buying Google’s Boston Dynamics robots subsidiary.

Amazon is interested in using robots to help with order fulfillment, but the firm has gone to great lengths in the past to reassure the public that human jobs will not be replaced with robots. However, it is worth noting that one of the topics explored at the conference was giving robots human values.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also has a keen interest in space exploration. He has been looking into launching rockets and exploring outer space with his company, Blue Origin.

Tobias Matthews

Tobias Matthews