Sunday, March 17, 2019

Party like it’s $1,999: Jeff Bezos and Robert Downey Jr. will headline re:MARS fest in Vegas

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos shows off a mockup of Blue Origin’s New Shepard crew capsule during a 2017 space conference. Blue Origin will be represented at Amazon’s re:Mars conference. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Amazon didn’t have to look very far for one of the biggest headliners due to appear at re:MARS, the Seattle-based company’s open-to-the-public event focusing on artificial intelligence and other tech frontiers.

Billionaire founder Jeff Bezos will share the stage with actor/producer Robert Downey Jr. and a cavalcade of CEOs, researchers and Amazon executives.

Today Amazon is taking the wraps off the starting lineup for the first re:MARS conference, set to take place June 4-7 at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas — and is letting the world know that registration will open at 6 a.m. PT March 28.

Re:MARS is modeled after the company’s invitation-only MARS conference, which has focused annually on Machine learning, Automation, Robotics and Space since 2016. In 2017, Bezos stole the show by stomping onstage in a giant robot, and in 2018, MARS photos of Bezos and Boston Dynamics’ robot dog went viral.

This year’s edition of MARS is reportedly running next week. (Our invitation must have gotten lost in the mail. Again.)

This year’s re:MARS is Amazon’s maiden effort to share the MARS experience with a wider public, as long as that public is willing to pay the $1,999 price for a pass. (Astronauts, however, can attend for free.)

What will attendees get for their money? Access to more than 100 sessions over the course of three and a half days, including keynotes, innovation spotlights, deep dives, demos and interactive workshops. An opportunity to experience Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital space capsule. And the chance to hobnob with the luminaries of the burgeoning artificial intelligence field … in Vegas, no less.

In addition to Bezos, the Amazon contingent will include Worldwide Consumer CEO Jeff Wilke and Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon Devices and Services. They’ll provide an inside look at the AI innovations behind Alexa, Amazon Web Services, the cashierless Amazon Go stores, Prime Air’s delivery drones, Amazon Robotics and more.

The list of speakers also includes leaders in the four MARS fields, with a heavy emphasis on artificial intelligence and its applications (eavened with what’s likely to be some fun stuff from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture). Here’s the lineup announced today:
Colin Angle, chairman, CEO and founder of iRobot.
Kate Darling, researcher at MIT Media Lab and affiliate at the Harvard Berkman Center.
Robert Downey Jr., actor and producer.
Aicha Evans, CEO of Zoox, a self-driving technology development company.
Ken Goldberg, engineering professor at the University of California at Berkeley.
Daphne Koller, founder of Insitro, an AI-based drug discovery company, and computer science professor at Stanford.
Andrew Lo, professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and director of the MIT Laboratory for Financial Engineering.
Andrew Ng, founder and CEO of Landing AI and, general partner at AI Fund, co-founder of Coursera and an adjunct computer science professor at Stanford.
Naveen Rao, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel’s AI Products Group.
Tom Soderstrom, IT chief technology officer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Patrick Zeitouni, head of Blue Origin’s Advanced Development Program.

Featured sponsors for re:MARS include Accenture, Intel and iRobot. Folks who want all the latest info can sign up for email updates at the re:MARS website.

There’s sure to be further details to come as the agenda gets filled out. One big question: Will Robert Downey Jr. come to re:Mars in his “Iron Man” suit? Or would Elon Musk get jealous? As Tony Stark might say, “We’ll make it work.”

Jeff Bezos's canoodling scotched NYC's Amazon project, Mayor de Blasio suggests

That would seem to be a clear reference to Bezos — who in the weeks before the deal said he was being blackmailed by the National Enquirer, which had threatened to publish crotch shots he’d sent his mistress, Lauren Sanchez. Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, are divorcing.

Jeff Bezos's Affair Fueled Amazon's NYC Breakup, Mayor Suggests

NEW YORK — Amazon's local supporters might have reason to be upset about Jeff Bezos's alleged extramarital escapades. Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested Friday that the Amazon CEO's well-publicized affair may have played a role in his company canceling plans for a New York City headquarters.

"I think we could all say that unusual things were happening within the Amazon family at that moment in time, and that was said politely," the mayor said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "There was clearly some unusual factors happening."

De Blasio did not get specific about what he thought those factors were. Pressed by panelist Donny Deutsch on whether he thought Bezos's affair had something to do with the stunning reversal, the Democratic mayor added, "I only am saying it was an unusual environment."

"I said it was an unusual environment, meaning there were a lot of cross-pressures, there was a lot of things going on," said de Blasio, a Democrat.

Amazon announced on Valentine's Day that it would not set up a sprawling campus in Long Island City. The project was expected to create at least 25,000 jobs in exchange for about $3 billion in incentives, which many officials and activists aggressively opposed.

The shocking move came as a sordid story involving Bezos, a TV personality, the National Enquirer and alleged extortion unraveled in the news following the executive's January announcement that he and his wife, MacKenzie, were divorcing.

The Enquirer published purported text messages between Bezos and Lauren Sanchez, a TV host with whom the world's richest man was reportedly having an affair. Then Bezos accused the tabloid's publisher, American Media Inc., of "extortion and blackmail" for allegedly threatening to publish intimate photos of him unless he publicly denied knowing the firm's coverage was politically motivated.

Bezos made the allegation in a blog post on Feb. 7, a week before the company said it was canceling its New York City plans. But the only specific reason Amazon cited in the announcement was politicians who "have made it clear that they oppose our presence."

The "Morning Joe" hosts tried unsuccessfully tried to get de Blasio to clarify what factors he thought played into Amazon's decision. The mayor accused the online retail giant of abandoning the city without trying to work out the concerns at play.

"The facts are a decision was made very arbitrarily," the mayor said. "We had an agreement, the agreement was moving forward and suddenly it wasn't. That's all I'm saying."

An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment on de Blasio's suggestion that the Bezos affair had something to do with its decision.


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