Our first-ever dedicated robotics event in Boston was a smash hit. Here’s hoping the local community can keep the momentum going and solidify its standing as a worldwide leader in the field.
Huge thanks to our event sponsors who made the conference possible: Argosight, BDO, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, IDA Ireland, and iRobot. And of course thanks to our host, Google, who provided a great space and support for people and robots alike.
A special thank-you to our speakers and audience, many of whom show up in the pictures above. You all made the afternoon pop and really kept the room electric throughout. All photos by Keith Spiro Photography (thanks Keith!).
Now for my top 5 takeaways from the day (and attributions):
1. Robotics is obviously not a new field—iRobot’s been around for 25 years—but there is a lot of new interest from investors, big companies, and consumers. (See Todd Dagres at Spark Capital, Dmitry Grishin of Grishin Robotics, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and pretty much everyone else.)
2. Artificial intelligence is showing up in lots of tech-company products—things like language processing, computer vision, and machine learning—but its capabilities tend to be overhyped by outsiders. (Rod Brooks, CTO of Rethink Robotics.)
3. Speaking of hype, drones—perhaps you’ve heard of them…But hype aside, they could actually deliver stuff to your door at some point, once the regulations get sorted out. (Helen Greiner, CEO of CyPhy Works.)
4. There are also real emerging markets for robots in areas like agriculture, transportation, warehousing, and rehab. (See Harvest Automation, Google car, Kiva Systems, iWalk, and others.)
5. The Boston area still has a leading position in robotics, but it risks losing out to other regions if it focuses on lower-level technologies instead of solving big problems in big markets. (Eric Paley, managing partner at Founder Collective.)
As a side note, there was some discussion about whether “robotics” will be subsumed under the broader umbrella of tech—things like mobile, connected devices, cloud services, sensors, and artificial intelligence. That may be the case when people think about solving customer problems with specific products. But I think a subset of techies will always identify with working on machines and systems whose classification as “robots” is not in question.
Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Editor in chief. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com.