Amazon hosted a secret robotics conference in Palm Springs, Florida last weekend, reports Bloomberg. The conference, dubbed “MARS,” which stands for “Machine-Learning (Home) Automation, Robotics and Space Exploration,” was an invite-only event held at the Parker Palm Springs that brought together experts in the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence, space exploration, and home automation.
Amazon has not publicly commented on the conference, but reports on social media from attendees leaked its existence. Bloomberg notes that the conference hosted some big names, including film director Ron Howard and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The event was also attended by a number of academics from MIT, the University of California at Berkeley, and ETH Zurich, sources told Bloomberg. Also in attendance were some CEOs and representatives from companies including Rethink Robotics, Toyota Motor Corp., and iRobot.
Bloomberg said all those in attendance, like Helen Greiner, the cofounder of iRobot and CEO of CyPhy Works who posted the tweet above, were experts in various disciplines relevant to Jeff Bezos’s space exploration goals.
The event reportedly had seminars about imbuing machines with human values, says Bloomberg. The site also reports that one unnamed UCLA professor posted photos from the event that showed attendees making their own axes to split wood (for some reason), trying virtual-reality devices, and eating grapes and drinks served on tables set on top of Amazon’s Kiva robots.
MARS is not the first secretive conference Amazon has hosted, notes Bloomberg. Each year the company hosts a retreat called Campfire in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the world’s leading authors.