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This bathroom cleaning robot is trained in VR to clean up after you

By Brian Heater

You’ve no doubt heard about the three Ds of automation. Somatic’s robot handily qualifies for two. I’d say “dangerous” is probably a bit of a stretch here, but the robot is well-focused on replacing a job that’s generally regarded as both “dirty” and “dull.”

The startup, which is ostensibly based in the New York area (it’s a small, geographically dispersed team in search of a more permanent home) effectively came out of stealth onstage at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI at UC Berkeley. Its first product is a large, commercial restroom cleaning robot.

CEO Michael Levy compares the device to a “minifridge with a robot arm attached to the front.” Levy, who co-founded the company with CTO Eugene Zasoba, says he was inspired to develop a robot for bathroom cleaning after years spent working his way up at his grandfather’s restaurant.

“When I grew up, I did a bunch of jobs. He said, if you want to get to the register, you have start in the bathroom,” he explains. “The reason bathrooms are such a good application, because everything is bolted down to the floor. Things move in a predictable way. All commercial bathrooms built after 1994 are ADA compliant. What’s good for robotics is that lays a specific design.”

The static nature of most commercial restrooms means that robots only have to train on a space once. The team does the work remotely now, using a VR simulation of the bathroom to show the robot where to spray and wipe chemicals, vacuum and blow-dry. It’s an activity the team affectionately refers to as “the worst video game, ever.” Once all of that is in place, the robot uses a variety of sensors, including lidar, to navigate around.

The robot will clean a restroom, then go to recharge and refill chemicals as needed. It should get around eight hours of cleaning done in a day and can even open doors and ride the elevator to get around buildings, according to Levy.

Prime targets include airports, casinos, office spaces and other spots with large commercial restrooms. The robot will be leased out for around $1,000 a month, after a trial phase. Somatic already has a handful of customers, including a FAANG company, whose offices are already being cleaned by the robot.

The first model was created with help from $50,000 in bootstrapped funds, to which Somatic has added $300,000, including $150,000 from SOSV.

‘Robot’ was coined 100 years ago, in a play predicting human extinction by android hands

By Brian Heater

The big climax arrives in Act Three. There’s an uprising, as the robots take over the factory that created them. By the Epilogue, humankind is all but extinct. Fed up with their treatment, the robots have laid waste to the hands that created them, sparing only a single human — a fellow worker.

The decision may have ultimately doomed themselves, however, as they failed to save the one person capable of proliferating their kind. It is, however, the last living man who finds humanity in a pair of robots and likens them to the first two humans, in the biblical tradition. It’s a hopeful note following an extinction that mostly occurred between acts. Two robots exit the stage, leaving the last man to utter the final words, “Adam—Eve.”

To borrow a phrase from another science fiction cautionary tale released seven decades later, “Life finds a way.”

It’s the final lesson of a play loaded to the artificial gills with allegory. Published 100 years ago (and premiering 99 years ago last month) R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), by Czech writer Karel Čapek, is best remembered for bringing the word “robot” to sci-fi — and English, generally. It’s a key piece of the seven-time Nobel Prize-nominated writer’s legacy, who infused deeply held political beliefs into his early science fiction writings.

Čapek’s use of “robot” is rooted in the Old Church Slavonic word, “robot,” which translates to forced labor” or “worker” in some derivations. “The word also has cognates in German, Russian, Polish and Czech,” history professor Howard Markel explained in a 2011 interview with NPR. “And it’s really a product of the Central European system of serfdom, where a tenants’ rent was paid for in forced labor or service.”

The concept of robots as forced labor dates back at least as far as the word robot itself — so, too, does the notion of a robotic uprising. That is to say that “kill all humans” wasn’t uttered first by Bender in Futurama or in the comments section of Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog YouTube video. No, the first commonly understood robots to bear that name were wholly invested in returning power to the hands of the exploited workers — by any means necessary.

The roots of robotics in human society is commonly acknowledged to date back centuries prior, to classical cultures like Greek mythology and the golems of Jewish tradition. But Čapek is the one who gave us the word we still use today. 

Of course, the writer’s robots were more human than we presently associate with the word. In fact, perhaps, more in common with the older term, “android,” which stems from a Greek term that translates to “having the form of a man/human.” The robots of R.U.R. are living beings, built of artificial flesh, who eventually inherit the Earth.

“When the play opens, a few decades beyond the present day, the factory had turned out already, following a secret formula, hundreds of thousands, and even millions, of manufactured workmen, living automats, without souls, desires or feelings,” the official “Story of the Play” explains. “They are high-powered laborers, good for nothing but work. There are two grades, the unskilled and the skilled, and especially trained workmen are furnished on request.”

Set largely in the year 2000, the play grapples with questions of humanity decades before either Blade Runner or its source material, with the robots ultimately achieving a sort of humanity somewhere between Pinocchio and Oz’s Tin Man, albeit out from the ashes of the human creators they murdered en masse. A happy ending, perhaps, by 1920 standards.

For more robotics, check out our upcoming event March 3 at UC Berkeley. 

Grab your ticket: Only one week to TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020

By Emma Comeau

It’s T-minus one week to the big day, March 3, when more than 1,000 startuppers will convene in San Jose, Calif. for TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020. We’re talking a hefty cross-section representing big companies and exciting new startups. We’re talking some of the most innovative thinkers, makers, researchers, investors and influencers — all focused on creating the future of these two world-changing technologies.

Don’t miss out on this one-day conference of interviews, panel discussions, Q&As, workshops and demos dedicated to every aspect of robotics and A.I. General admission tickets cost $345. Snag your ticket now and save, because prices go up at the door. Want to save even more? Save 15 percent when you buy four or more tickets. Are you a student? Grab a ticket for just $50.

What do we have planned for this TC Session? Here’s a small sample of the fab programming that awaits you, and be sure to check out the full TC Session agenda here.

  • Q&A with Founders: This is your chance to ask questions of Sébastien Boyer, co-founder and CEO of FarmWise and Noah Ready-Campbell, founder and CEO of Built Robotics — some of the most successful robotics founders on our stage.
  • Disney Robotics: Imagineers from Disney will present state-of-the-art robotics built to populate its theme parks.
  • Investing in Robotics and AI: Lessons from the Industry’s VCs: Dror Berman, founding partner at Innovation Endeavors, Jocelyn Goldfein, managing director at Zetta Venture Partners and Eric Migicovsky, general partner at Y Combinator will discuss the rising tide of venture capital funding in robotics and AI. The investors bring a combination of early stage investing and corporate venture capital expertise, sharing a fondness for the wild world of robotics and AI investing.

And — new this year — don’t miss watching the finalists from our Pitch Night competition. Founders of these early-stage companies, hand-picked by TechCrunch editors, will take the stage and have just five minutes to present their wares.

With just one more week until TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 kicks off, you don’t have much time left to save on tickets. Why pay more at the door? Buy your ticket now and join the best and brightest for a full day dedicated to all things robotics.

Announcing the TC Pitch Night: Robotics + AI startups

By Neesha A. Tambe

The night before the Robotics + AI event at UC Berkeley, TechCrunch is hosting a private Pitch Night, featuring innovative startups in robotics and artificial intelligence. After reviewing hundreds of applications, TechCrunch selected the early-stage startups below to pitch in front of industry executives, TC writers and our expert panel of judges: Brian Heater (TC’s own Hardware Editor), Aaron Jacobson (NEA), Jennifer Roberts (Grit Ventures) and Rob Coneybeer (Shasta Ventures).

Founders will pitch in front of the crowd followed by a tough Q&A from the judges. After all companies have pitched, the judges will select the top five teams to demo onstage at the main event on March 3: TC Sessions: Robotics + AI.

Check out the featured companies here:

AirWorks
Augean Robotics
BlinkAI Technologies
KEWAZO GmbH
Olis Robotics
RoboTire
SLAMcore
Tombot
Valyant AI

To see the startups pitching at the main event, book your $345 General Admission ticket today and save $50 before prices go up at the door. But no one likes going to events alone. Why not bring the whole team? Groups of four or more save 15% on tickets when you book here.

These leaders are coming to Robotics + AI on March 3. Why aren’t you?

By Emma Comeau

TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics + AI brings together a wide group of the ecosystem’s leading minds on March 3 at UC Berkeley. Over 1000+ attendees are expected from all facets of the robotics and artificial intelligence space – investors, students, engineerings, C-levels, technologists, and researchers. We’ve compiled a small list of highlights of attendees’ companies and job titles attending this year’s event below.

ATTENDEE HIGHLIGHTS

  • ABB Technology Ventures, Vice President
  • Amazon, Head, re:MARS Product Marketing
  • Amazon Web Services, Principal Business Development Manager
  • Autodesk, Director, Robotics
  • AWS, Principal Technologist
  • BMW, R&D Engineer
  • Bosch Venture Capital, Investment Principal
  • Capital One, President of Critical Stack
  • Ceres Robotics Inc, CEO
  • Deloitte, Managing Director
  • Facebook AI Research, Research Lead
  • Ford X, Strategy & Operations
  • Goldman Sachs, Technology Investor
  • Google, Vice President
  • Google X, Director, Robotics
  • Greylock, EIR
  • Hasbro, Principal Engineer
  • Honda R&D Americas Inc., Data Engineer
  • HSBC, Global Relationship Manager
  • Huawei Technologies, Principal System Architect of Corporate Technology Strategy
  • Hyundai CRADLE, Industrial Design
  • Intel, Hardware Engineer
  • Intuit, Inc., Software Engineer
  • iRobot, CTO
  • John Deere, Director, Precision Ag Marketing and Innovation
  • Kaiser Permanente, Director
  • Kawasaki Heavy Industries (USA), Inc., Technical Director
  • LG Electronics, Head of Engineering
  • LockHeed Martin, Engineering Manager
  • Moody’s Analytics, Managing Director
  • Morgan Stanley, Executive Director
  • NASA, Senior Systems Architect
  • Nestle, Innovation Manager
  • NVIDIA, Senior Systems Software Engineer
  • Qualcomm Ventures, Investment Director
  • Samsung, Director, Open Innovations & Tech Partnership
  • Samsung Ventures, Managing Director
  • Shasta Ventures, Investor
  • Softbank Ventures Asia, Investor
  • Surgical Theater, SVP Engineering
  • Takenaka Corporation, Senior Manager, Technology Planning
  • Techstars, Managing Director
  • Tesla, Sr. Machine Learning Engineer
  • Toyota Research Institute, Manager, Prototyping & Robotics Operations
  • Uber, Engineering Manager
  • UPS, Director of Research and Development

STUDENTS & RESEARCHERS FROM:

  • Columbia University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Harvard University
  • Northwestern University
  • Santa Clara University
  • Stanford University
  • Texas A&M University
  • UC Berkeley
  • UC Davis
  • UCLA
  • USC
  • Yale University

Did you know that TechCrunch provides a white-glove networking app at all our events called CrunchMatch? You can connect and match with people who meet your specific requirements, message them, and connect right at the conference. How cool is that!?

Want to get in on networking with this caliber of people? Book your $345 General Admission ticket today and save $50 before prices go up at the door. But no one likes going to events alone. Why not bring the whole team? Groups of four or more save 15% on tickets when you book here.

Network with CrunchMatch at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020

By Emma Comeau

Got your sights set on attending TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 on May 14 in San Jose? Spend the day with 1,000 or more like-minded founders, makers and leaders across the startup ecosystem. It’s a day-long deep dive dedicated to current and evolving mobility and transportation tech. Think autonomous vehicles, micromobility, AI-based mobility applications, battery tech and so much more.

Hold up. Don’t have a ticket yet? Buy your early-bird pass right here and save $100.

In addition to taking in all the great speakers (we add more every week), presentations, workshops and demos, you’ll want to meet people and build the relationships that foster startup success, amirite? Get ready for a radical network experience with CrunchMatch. Our free business-matching platform makes finding and connecting with the right people easier than ever. It’s both curated and automated, a potent combination that makes networking simple and productive. Hey needle, kiss that haystack goodbye.

Here’s how it works.

When we launch the CrunchMatch platform, we’ll email all registered attendees. Simply create a profile, identify your role and list your specific criteria, goals and interests. Whomever you want to meet — investors, founders or engineers specializing in autonomous cars or ride-hailing apps. The CrunchMatch algorithm kicks into gear and suggests matches and, subject to your approval, proposes meeting times and sends meeting requests.

CrunchMatch benefits everyone — founders looking for developers, investors in search of hot prospects, founders looking for marketing help — the list is endless, and the tool is free.

You have one programming-packed day to soak up everything this conference offers. Start strategizing now to make the most of your valuable time. CrunchMatch will help you cut through the crowd and network efficiently so that you have time to learn about the latest tech innovations and still connect with people who can help you reach the next level.

TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 takes place on May 14 in San Jose, Calif. Join, meet and learn from the industry’s mightiest minds, makers, innovators and investors. And let CrunchMatch make your time there much easier and more productive. Buy your early-bird ticket, and we’ll see you in San Jose!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Announcing the final agenda for Robotics + AI — March 3 at UC Berkeley

By Richard Smith

TechCrunch is returning to U.C. Berkeley on March 3 to bring together some of the most influential minds in robotics and artificial intelligence. Each year we strive to bring together a cross-section of big companies and exciting new startups, along with top researchers, VCs and thinkers.

In addition to a main stage that includes the likes of Amazon’s Tye Brady, U .C. Berkeley’s Stuart Russell, Anca Dragan of Waymo, Claire Delaunay of NVIDIA, James Kuffner of Toyota’s TRI-AD, and a surprise interview with Disney Imagineers, we’ll also be offering a more intimate Q&A stage featuring speakers from SoftBank Robotics, Samsung, Sony’s Innovation Fund, Qualcomm, NVIDIA and more.

Alongside a selection of handpicked demos, we’ll also be showcasing the winners from our first-ever pitch-off competition for early-stage robotics companies. You won’t get a better look at exciting new robotics technologies than that. Tickets for the event are still available. We’ll see you in a couple of weeks at Zellerbach Hall.

Agenda

8:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Registration Open Hours

General Attendees can pick up their badges starting at 8:30 am at Lower Sproul Plaza located in front of Zellerbach Hall. We close registration at 4:00 pm.

10:00 AM – 10:05 AM

Welcome and Introduction from Matthew Panzarino (TechCrunch) and Randy Katz (UC Berkeley)

10:05 AM – 10:25 AM

Saving Humanity from AI with Stuart Russell (UC Berkeley)

The UC Berkeley professor and AI authority argues in his acclaimed new book, “Human Compatible,” that AI will doom humanity unless technologists fundamentally reform how they build AI algorithms.

10:25 AM – 10:45 AM

Engineering for the Red Planet with Lucy Condakchian (Maxar Technologies)

Maxar Technologies has been involved with U.S. space efforts for decades, and is about to send its sixth (!) robotic arm to Mars aboard NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. Lucy Condakchian is general manager of robotics at Maxar and will speak to the difficulty and exhilaration of designing robotics for use in the harsh environments of space and other planets.

10:45 AM – 11:05 AM

Automating Amazon with Tye Brady (Amazon Robotics)

Amazon Robotics’ chief technology officer will discuss how the company is using the latest in robotics and AI to optimize its massive logistics. He’ll also discuss the future of warehouse automation and how humans and robots share a work space. 

11:05 AM – 11:15 AM

Live Demo from the Stanford Robotics Club 

11:30 AM – 12:00 PM

Book signing with Stuart Russell (UC Berkeley)

Join one of the foremost experts in artificial intelligence as he signs copies of his acclaimed new book, Human Compatible.

11:35 AM – 12:05 PM

Building the Robots that Build with Daniel Blank (Toggle Industries), Tessa Lau (Dusty Robotics), Noah Ready-Campbell (Built Robotics) and Brian Ringley (Boston Dynamics)

Can robots help us build structures faster, smarter and cheaper? Built Robotics makes a self-driving excavator. Toggle is developing a new fabrication of rebar for reinforced concrete, Dusty builds robot-powered tools and longtime robotics pioneers Boston Dynamics have recently joined the construction space. We’ll talk with the founders and experts from these companies to learn how and when robots will become a part of the construction crew.

12:15 PM – 1:00 PM

Q&A: Corporate VC, Partnering and Acquisitions with Kass Dawson (SoftBank Robotics America), Carlos Kokron (Qualcomm Ventures), and Gen Tsuchikawa (Sony Innovation Fund)

Join this interactive Q&A session on the breakout stage with three of the top minds in corporate VC.

1:00 PM – 1:25 PM

Pitch-off 

Select, early-stage companies, hand-picked by TechCrunch editors, will take the stage and have five minutes to present their wares.

1:15 PM – 2:00 PM

Q&A: Founding Robotics Companies with Sebastien Boyer (FarmWise) and Noah Ready-Campbell (Built Robotics)

Your chance to ask questions of some of the most successful robotics founders on our stage

1:25 PM – 1:50 PM

Investing in Robotics and AI: Lessons from the Industry’s VCs with Dror Berman (Innovation Endeavors), Kelly Chen (DCVC) and Eric Migicovsky (Y Combinator)

Leading investors will discuss the rising tide of venture capital funding in robotics and AI. The investors bring a combination of early-stage investing and corporate venture capital expertise, sharing a fondness for the wild world of robotics and AI investing.

1:50 PM – 2:15 PM

Facilitating Human-Robot Interaction with Mike Dooley (Labrador Systems) and Clara Vu (Veo Robotics)

As robots become an ever more meaningful part of our lives, interactions with humans are increasingly inevitable. These experts will discuss the broad implications of HRI in the workplace and home.

2:15 PM – 2:40 PM

Toward a Driverless Future with Anca Dragan (UC Berkeley/Waymo), Jinnah Hosein (Aurora) and Jur van den Berg (Ike)

Autonomous driving is set to be one of the biggest categories for robotics and AI. But there are plenty of roadblocks standing in its way. Experts will discuss how we get there from here. 

2:15 PM – 3:00 PM

Q&A: Investing in Robotics Startups with Rob Coneybeer (Shasta Ventures), Jocelyn Goldfein (Zetta Venture Partners) and Aaron Jacobson (New Enterprise Associates)

Join this interactive Q&A session on the breakout stage with some of the greatest investors in robotics and AI

2:40 PM – 3:10 PM

Disney Robotics

Imagineers from Disney will present start of the art robotics built to populate its theme parks.

3:10 PM – 3:35 PM

Bringing Robots to Life with Max Bajracharya and James Kuffner (Toyota Research Institute Advanced Development)

This summer’s Tokyo Olympics will be a huge proving ground for Toyota’s TRI-AD. Executive James Kuffner and Max Bajracharya will join us to discuss the department’s plans for assistive robots and self-driving cars.

3:15 PM – 4:00 PM

Q&A: Building Robotics Platforms with Claire Delaunay (NVIDIA) and Steve Macenski (Samsung Research America)

Join this interactive Q&A session on the breakout stage with some of the greatest engineers in robotics and AI.

3:35 PM – 4:00 PM

The Next Century of Robo-Exoticism with Abigail De Kosnik (UC Berkeley), David Ewing Duncan, Ken Goldberg (UC Berkeley), and Mark Pauline (Survival Research Labs)

In 1920, Karl Capek coined the term “robot” in a play about mechanical workers organizing a rebellion to defeat their human overlords. One hundred years later, in the context of increasing inequality and xenophobia, the panelists will discuss cultural views of robots in the context of “Robo-Exoticism,” which exaggerates both negative and positive attributes and reinforces old fears, fantasies and stereotypes.

4:00 PM – 4:10 PM 

Live Demo from Somatic

4:10 PM – 4:35 PM

Opening the Black Box with Explainable AI with Trevor Darrell (UC Berkeley), Krishna Gade (Fiddler Labs) and Karen Myers (SRI International)

Machine learning and AI models can be found in nearly every aspect of society today, but their inner workings are often as much a mystery to their creators as to those who use them. UC Berkeley’s Trevor Darrell, Krishna Gade of Fiddler Labs and Karen Myers from SRI will discuss what we’re doing about it and what still needs to be done.

4:35 PM – 5:00 PM 

Cultivating Intelligence in Agricultural Robots with Lewis Anderson (Traptic), Sebastian Boyer (FarmWise) and Michael Norcia (Pyka)

The benefits of robotics in agriculture are undeniable, yet at the same time only getting started. Lewis Anderson (Traptic) and Sebastien Boyer (FarmWise) will compare notes on the rigors of developing industrial-grade robots that both pick crops and weed fields respectively, and Pyka’s Michael Norcia will discuss taking flight over those fields with an autonomous crop-spraying drone.

5:00 PM – 5:25 PM

Fostering the Next Generation of Robotics Startups with Claire Delaunay (NVIDIA), Scott Phoenix (Vicarious) and Joshua Wilson (Freedom Robotics

Robotics and AI are the future of many or most industries, but the barrier of entry is still difficult to surmount for many startups. Speakers will discuss the challenges of serving robotics startups and companies that require robotics labor, from bootstrapped startups to large scale enterprises.

5:30 PM – 7:30 PM

Unofficial After Party, (Cash Bar Only) 

Come hang out at the unofficial After Party at Tap Haus, 2518 Durant Ave, Ste C, Berkeley

Final Tickets Available

We only have so much space in Zellerbach Hall and tickets are selling out fast. Grab your General Admission Ticket right now for $350 and save 50 bucks as prices go up at the door.

Student tickets are just $50 and can be purchased here. Student tickets are limited.

Startup Exhibitor Packages are sold out!

Tortoise co-founder Dmitry Shevelenko is bringing autonomous scooters to TC Sessions: Mobility

By Megan Rose Dickey

TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 is gearing up to be a lit event. The one-day event, taking place May 14 in San Jose, has just added Dmitry Shevelenko, co-founder and president of an automatic repositioning startup for micromobility vehicles. Yes, that means we’ll be having autonomous scooters rolling around onstage. #2020

Tortoise, which recently received approval to deploy its tech in San Jose, is looking to become an operating system of sorts for micromobility vehicles. Just how Android is the operating system for a number of mobile phones, Tortoise wants to be the operating system for micromobility vehicles.

Given the volume of micromobility operators in the space today, Tortoise aims to make it easier for these companies to more strategically deploy their respective vehicles and reposition them when needed. Using autonomous technology in tandem with remote human intervention, Tortoise’s software enables operators to remotely relocate their scooters and bikes to places where riders need them, or, where operators need them to be recharged. On an empty sidewalk, Tortoise may employ autonomous technologies, while it may rely on humans to remotely control the vehicle on a highly trafficked city block.

Before co-founding Tortoise, Shevelenko served as Uber’s director of business development. While at Uber, Shevelenko helped the company expand into new mobility and led the acquisition of JUMP Bikes . Needless to say, Shevelenko is well-versed to talk about the next opportunities in micromobility.

Other speakers at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 include Waymo COO Tekedra Mawakana; Uber’s director of Policy, Cities & Transportation, Shin-pei Tsay; and Argo AI co-founder and CEO Bryan Salesky.

Tickets are on sale now for $250 (early-bird status). After April 9, tickets go up, so be sure to get yours before that deadline. If you’re a student, tickets cost just $50.

Early-stage startups in the mobility space can book an exhibitor package for $2,000 and get four tickets and a demo table. Packages allow you to get in front of some of the biggest names in the industry and meet new customers. Book your tickets here.

Join the Q&A with top speakers at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI (March 3)

By Brian Heater

Over the past four years, TechCrunch has brought together some of the biggest names in robotics — founders, CEOs, VCs and researchers — for TC Sessions: Robotics + AI. The show has provided a unique opportunity to explore the future and present of robotics, AI and the automation technologies that will define our professional and personal lives.

While the panels have been curated and hosted by our editorial staff, we’ve also long been interested in providing show-goers an opportunity to engage with guests. For this reason, we introduced the Q&A stage, where some of the biggest names can more directly engage with attendees.

This year, we’ve got top names from SoftBank, Samsung, Sony’s Innovation Fund, Qualcomm, Nvidia and more joining us on the stage to answer questions. Here’s the full agenda of this year’s Q&A stage:

11:30 – 12:00 Russell Book signing
Stuart Russell

12:15 – 1:00 Corporate VC, Partnering and Acquisitions
Carlos Kocher (Qualcomm)
/> Kass Dawson (SoftBank)
Gen Tsuchikawa (Sony Innovation Fund)

1:15 – 2:00 Founders
Sebastien Boyer (FarmWise)
Noah Campbell-Ready (Built Robotics)

2:15 – 3:00 VC
Jocelyn Goldfein (Zetta Venture Partners)
/> Rob Coneybeer (Shasta Ventures)
Aaron Jacobson (New Enterprise Associates)

3:15 – 4:00 Building Robotics Platforms
Steven Macenski (Samsung)
Claire Delaunay (Nvidia)

$345 General admission tickets are still on sale — book yours here and join 1,000+ of today’s leading minds in the business for networking and discovery. The earlier you book the better, as prices go up at the door.

Students, save big with a $50 ticket and get full access to the show. Student tickets are available to current students only. Book yours here.

Maniv Mobility General Partner Olaf Sakkers is coming to TC Sessions: Mobility

By Kirsten Korosec

In case you haven’t heard, TC Sessions: Mobility is back for second year. This one-day event, which will be held May 14 in San Jose, promises to feature some of best and brightest engineers, policymakers, investors, entrepreneurs and innovators, all of whom are vying to be a part of this new age of transportation.

Attendees of TC Sessions: Mobility can expect interviews with founders, investors and inventors, demos of the latest tech, breakout sessions, dozens of startup exhibits and opportunities to network and recruit.

We have announced several speakers for the event, including Klaus Zellmer, the president and CEO of Porsche Cars North America, Waymo’s  href="https://techcrunch.com/2020/01/08/tc-sessions-mobility-2020-boris-sofman-of-waymo-and-nancy-sun-of-ike/">Boris Sofman, Ike Robotics co-founder and chief engineer Nancy Sun, Trucks VC general partner Reilly Brennan and Shin-pei Tsay, director of policy, cities and transportation at Uber.

And now we have another star to add to our TC Sessions: Mobility list. TechCrunch is excited to announce that Olaf Sakkers, general partner at Maniv Mobility will be joining us on stage this year. Sakkers is a founding partner at Maniv Mobility, a global fund investing in mobility.

Maniv started out with a focus on transportation and mobility-related startups in Israel, with a few in investments in the U.S. It expanded its mission to the global stage, a move buoyed by a $100 million fund that it closed last July with backing from 12 corporations, including the venture arms of Aptiv, BMW, Hyundai, Lear Corp., LG Electronics, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, Shell and Valeo.

Maniv’s portfolio includes vehicle security company Owlcam, peer-to-peer car-sharing company Turo, teleoperations startup Phantom Auto, autonomous vehicle-focused chipmaker Hailo, shared electric moped company Revel, Spain-based car subscription startup Bipi and in-vehicle software management firm Aurora Labs.

Stay tuned to see who we’ll announce next.

And … $250 Early-Bird tickets are now on sale — save $100 on tickets before prices go up on April 9; book today.

Students, you can grab your tickets for just $50 here.

If you’re an early-stage, mobility startup, make sure you grab an exhibitor package to get your startup in front of today’s leading mobility leaders. Packages come with 4 tickets each and are just $2000. Book yours here.

Fiddler Labs, SRI and Berkeley experts open up the black box of machine learning at TC Sessions: Robotics+AI

By Devin Coldewey

As AI permeates the home, work, and public life, it’s increasingly important to be able to understand why and how it makes its decisions. Explainable AI isn’t just a matter of hitting a switch, though; Experts from UC Berkeley, SRI, and Fiddler Labs will discuss how we should go about it on stage at TC Sessions: Robotics+AI on March 3.

What does explainability really mean? Do we need to start from scratch? How do we avoid exposing proprietary data and methods? Will there be a performance hit? Whose responsibility will it be, and who will ensure it is done properly?

On our panel addressing these questions and more will be two experts, one each from academia and private industry.

Trevor Darrell is a professor at Berkeley’s Computer Science department who helps lead many of the university’s AI-related labs and projects, especially those concerned with the next generation of smart transportation. His research group focuses on perception and human-AI interaction, and he previously led a computer vision group at MIT.

Krishna Gade has passed in his time through Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Microsoft, and has seen firsthand how AI is developed privately — and how biases and flawed processes can lead to troubling results. He co-founded Fiddler as an effort to address problems of fairness and transparency by providing an explainable AI framework for enterprise.

Moderating and taking part in the discussion will be SRI International’s Karen Myers, director of the research outfit’s Artificial Intelligence Center and an AI developer herself focused on collaboration, automation, and multi-agent systems.

Save $50 on tickets when you book today. Ticket prices go up at the door and are selling fast. We have two (yes two) Startup Demo Packages Left – book your package now and get your startup in front of 1000+ of today’s leading industry minds. Packages come with 4 tickets – book here.

Students, score $50 tickets to TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020

By Emma Comeau

Are you a student enthralled by robots and the AI that powers them? Do you live within striking distance of UC Berkeley? Ready to learn from the greatest minds and makers in the field? Then we want you at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 on March 3 at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall.

We’re investing in the next generation of makers by making our day-long conference super-affordable. Buy your $50 student pass right here.

If you’re not familiar with our Robotics/AI session, listen up. It’s a full day of interviews, panel discussions, Q&As, workshops and demos. And it’s all dedicated to these two world-changing technologies. Last year, we hosted 1,500 attendees. We’re talking the industries’ top leaders, founders, investors, technologists, executives and engineering students.

As a student, you’ll rub elbows with the greats. You’ll have ample time to learn and network. Who knows? You might impress the pants off the right person and land an internship, a prime job — or find the co-founder of your dreams.

If networking feels like a chore, never fear. CrunchMatch, our free business matching platform, removes the pain and adds efficiency. Win-win!

You’ll hear from our great slate of speakers, including VCs Eric Migicovsky (Y Combinator), Kelly Chen (DCVC) and Dror Berman (Innovation Endeavors). You’ll also hear from plenty of founders, including experts focused on agricultural, construction and human assistive robotics. And that’s just for starters.

Here are a few more examples of presentations you’ll find in our program agenda:

  • Fostering the Next Generation of Robotics Startups: Robotics and AI are the future of many or most industries, but the barrier of entry is still difficult to surmount for many startups. Joshua Wilson (co-founder & CEO, Freedom Robotics) and Scott Phoenix (co-founder & CEO, Vicarious) will discuss the challenges of serving robotics startups and companies that require robotics labor, from bootstrapped startups to large-scale enterprises.
  • Live Demo from the Stanford Robotics Club: It just wouldn’t be a robotics conference without the opportunity to see robots in action. We’ve got you covered.
  • Pitch Night Pitch-off Finalists: Early-stage companies, hand-picked by TechCrunch editors, will take the stage and have five minutes to present their wares.
  • Saving Humanity from AI: UC Berkeley’s Stuart Russell argues in his acclaimed new book, “Human Compatible,” that AI will doom humanity unless technologists fundamentally reform how they build AI algorithms.

TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 takes place on March 3. We’re making the event affordable for students, because there’s no future tech without them. Invest $50 in your tomorrow — buy your student ticket today, and join us in Berkeley!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Porsche NA CEO Klaus Zellmer is coming to TC Sessions: Mobility

By Kirsten Korosec

The name Porsche has been synonymous with gas-powered high-performance sports cars and racing for nearly three quarters of a century. Now, the sports car manufacturer that is owned by Volkswagen Group is trying to build a new legacy, starting with its first all-electric vehicle, the Porsche Taycan.

Porsche has said that the Taycan, which was first unveiled in September, is just the beginning. It has committed to invest more than $6 billion into electric mobility through 2025 — a goal that is already well underway. Porsche spent more than $1 billion developing the Taycan, a cost that included expanding its factory. The company is investing in tech too, including an increased stake in Croatian electric vehicle components and hypercar company Rimac Automobili. Its venture arm took a minority stake in TriEye, an Israeli startup that’s working on a sensor technology to help vehicle driver-assistance and self-driving systems see better in poor weather conditions like dust, fog and rain.

Where is Porsche headed next? TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 will hopefully provide some answers. We’re excited to announce that Klaus Zellmer, the president and CEO of Porsche Cars North America, will join us onstage for TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 on May 14, 2020 in San Jose, Calif.

As president and CEO of PCNA, Zellmer leads the brand’s operations in the United States and Canada. He is also CEO of Porsche Digital, the sports car manufacturer’s digital subsidiary. Zellmer previously served as head of Overseas and Emerging Markets, with responsibility for Australia, Japan and Korea, and as CEO of Porsche Germany.

Zellmer has been with Porsche more than 20 years, an era of huge change at the sports car manufacturer, notably its electric vehicle program. Zellmer will talk about Porsche’s push into electrification, digital services and even flying cars while onstage at TC Sessions: Mobility.

TechCrunch created TC Sessions: Mobility to explore new ideas and startups, dig into the tech and highlight the people driving change in this ever-changing industry. This one-day event is centered around the future of mobility and transportation. We’ve already announced a few of the engineers, investors, founders and technologists who will join us onstage, including Waymo’s Boris Sofman, Ike Robotics co-founder and chief engineer Nancy Sun, Trucks VC general partner Reilly Brennan and Shin-pei Tsay, director of policy, cities and transportation at Uber.

Stay tuned to see who we’ll announce next.

And … $250 Early-Bird tickets are now on sale — save $100 on tickets before prices go up on April 9; book today. Students, you can grab your tickets for just $50 here.

CrunchMatch simplifies networking @ TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020

By Emma Comeau

With just about one month until go-time, TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 (March 3 in Berkeley, Calif.) is going to be a true powerhouse event. Prepare to spend the day engaging with the leading innovators, makers and investors bent on shaping the future of these two game-changing technologies.

Don’t have a ticket yet? Beat the price hike at the door and book your ticket now.

Last year 1,500 attendees packed the house, and we’re on track to surpass that number come March. Talk about an opportunity for focused networking. Here’s more great news. CrunchMatch, TechCrunch’s free business match-making tool, will be available to all attendees.

What can CrunchMatch do for you? Excellent question. It’s a curated, automated networking platform that helps you connect with people based on your criteria, goals and interests. No more time spent chatting up the wrong people. No matter who you’re hoping to meet with — founders, investors, technologists, researchers or engineering students — CrunchMatch makes networking a crowd as efficient and painless as possible.

Here’s how it works. When CrunchMatch opens, you’ll get an email to sign-up. Fill out your profile listing your role (technologist, founder, investor, etc.) and the type of connections you want to make at the event. The CrunchMatch algorithm will get to work and suggest people to meet and even set appointments, which you can approve or decline.

You never know who you’ll meet at a TechCrunch event or where that connection might lead. Wet your networking whistle with a look at some of the companies attending TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020:

  • ABB Technology Ventures
  • Amazon
  • Ceres Robotics Inc
  • Deloitte
  • Facebook
  • Google X
  • Hyundai CRADLE
  • John Deere
  • LG Electronics
  • Misty Robotics
  • Silicon Valley Bank
  • Stanford
  • Toyota AI Ventures
  • UC Berkeley
  • Waymo

While you’re at it, check out our program agenda for more than 17 presentations, including live robot demos, panel discussions, interviews and Q&As — where the audience gets to ask speakers their most burning questions.

Oh, and one more game-changer. We’ve added Pitch Night — a mini pitch-off competition that takes place the night before the conference starts.

TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 takes place on March 3, and with CrunchMatch at your side, you’ll network better than ever before. Don’t miss this opportunity to spend a full day connecting and engaging with your community of movers, makers and influencers. Buy your ticket today!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Watch experts from Boston Dynamics, Built, Dusty and Toggle discuss robotic construction at TC Sessions: Robotics

By Brian Heater

After recently doing a survey of the top robotics investment rounds, it became pretty clear: construction is going to be huge for this industry. Global construction is expected to hit $13 trillion by 2022 (with China alone hitting that number in 2030), and there are plenty of dull, dirty and dangerous jobs that seem well positioned for potential automation.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a fantastic — and packed — panel set to examine how robotics, AI and automation are poised to transform the industry. There’s a wide range of potential opportunities for the right startup, from producing construction materials to surveying sites. The latter, in particular, could amount to a big market for a company that can help correct mistakes before they become too costly.

Today we’re excited to announce that Boston Dynamics’ Construction Technologist Brian Ringley will be joining an already packed panel that includes Built Robotics’ Noah Campbell-Ready, Tessa Lau of Dusty Robotics and Toggle’s Daniel Blank at TC Sessions: Robotics+AI on March 3.

A longtime robotics pioneer, Boston Dynamics is a recent entrant into the construction space. The company’s now commercially available Spot robot is currently being piloted at construction sites. With LIDAR and other imaging technologies mounted on its back, the robot is able to give a more complete picture of in-progress construction sites.

 Save $50 when you book your tickets today as prices go up at the door. We still have a small handful of Startup Exhibitor Packages available that can be booked here. Each package comes with 4 tickets so you can divide and conquer the show.

Last day for early-bird tickets to TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020

By Emma Comeau

Today’s your last day to score early-bird pricing on tickets to TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020, which takes place on March 3. If you want to keep $150 in your wallet, beat the deadline and buy your ticket here before the clock strikes 11:59 p.m. (PT) tonight!

Our one-day conference dedicated to robotics and AI — the good, the bad and the challenging — features interviews, panel discussions, Q&As, workshops and demos. Join roughly 1,500 experts, visionaries, creators, founders, investors, researchers and engineers. Rub elbows, network and engage with current and aspiring leaders, as well as students poised to drive future innovation.

We have a stellar line up, and just because we’re biased doesn’t mean we’re wrong. I mean come on — assistive robots, ethics and AI, the state of VC investment and robot demos. And that’s just for starters. Here are a couple of specific examples (peruse the full agenda right here):

  • Cultivating Intelligence in Agricultural Robots: The benefits of robotics in agriculture are undeniable, yet at the same time only getting started. Lewis Anderson (Traptic) and Sebastien Boyer (FarmWise) will compare notes on the rigors of developing industrial-grade robots that both pick crops and weed fields, respectively. Pyka’s Michael Norcia will discuss taking flight over those fields with an autonomous crop-spraying drone.
  • Building the Robots that Build: Join Daniel Blank (Toggle), Tessa Lau (Dusty Robotics) and Noah Ready-Campbell (Built Robotics) as they discuss whether robots can help us build structures faster, smarter and cheaper. Built Robotics makes a self-driving excavator. Toggle is developing a new fabrication of rebar for reinforced concrete and Dusty Robotics builds robot-powered tools. We’ll talk with the founders to learn how and when robots will become a part of the construction crew.

And in case you haven’t heard, we’ve added Pitch Night, a mini pitch-off, into the mix this year. We’re accepting applications until tomorrow, February 1. This is no time for fence-sitting! Apply to compete in Pitch Night now. TechCrunch editors will review the applications and choose 10 startups to pitch at a private event the night before the conference. A panel of VC judges will select five teams as finalists. Those founders will pitch again the next day — live from the Main Stage. It’s awesome exposure that could take your startup to the next level.

If you love robots, you need to be at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 on March 3. And there’s no point paying more than necessary. Today’s the last day to buy an early-bird ticket. Buy yours before the deadline expires at 11:59 p.m. (PT) and save $150.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Uber’s Shin-pei Tsay is coming to TC Sessions: Mobility

By Kirsten Korosec

Government and policy experts are  among the most important people in the future of transportation. Any company pursuing the shared scooters and bikes business, ride-hailing, on-demand shuttles and eventually autonomous vehicles has to have someone, or a team of people, who can work with cities.

Enter Shin-pein Tsay, the director of policy, cities and transportation at Uber . TechCrunch is excited to announced that Tsay will join us on stage at TC Sessions: Mobility, a one-day conference dedicated to the future of mobility and transportation.

If there’s one person who is at the center of this universe, it’s Tsay. In her current role at Uber, she leads a team of issues experts focused on what Uber calls a “sustainable multi-modal urban future.”

Tsay is also founder. Prior to Uber, she founded a social impact analysis company called Make Public. She was also the deputy executive director of TransitCenter, a national foundation focused on improving urban transportation. She also founded and directed the cities and transportation program under the Energy and Climate Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

For the past four years, Shinpei has served as a commissioner for the City of New York Public Design Commission. She is on the board of the national non-profit In Our Backyard.

Stay tuned, we’ll have more speaker announcements in the coming weeks. In case you missed it, TechCrunch has already announced Ike co-founder and chief engineer Nancy Sun, Waymo’s head of trucking Boris Sofman and Trucks VC’s Reilly Brennan will be participating in TC Sessions: Mobility.

Don’t forget that $250 Early-Bird tickets are now on sale — save $100 on tickets before prices go up on April 9; book today.

Students, you can grab your tickets for just $50 here.

Unearth the future of agriculture at TC Sessions: Robotics+AI with the CEOs of Traptic, FarmWise and Pyka

By Devin Coldewey

Farming is one of the oldest professions, but today those amber waves of grain (and soy) are a test bed for sophisticated robotic solutions to problems farmers have had for millennia. Learn about the cutting edge (sometimes literally) of agricultural robots at TC Sessions: Robotics+AI on March 3 with the founders of Traptic, Pyka and FarmWise.

Traptic, and its co-founder and CEO Lewis Anderson, you may remember from Disrupt SF 2019, where it was a finalist in the Startup Battlefield. The company has developed a robotic berry picker that identifies ripe strawberries and plucks them off the plants with a gentle grip. It could be the beginning of a new automated era for the fruit industry, which is decades behind grains and other crops when it comes to machine-based harvesting.

FarmWise has a job that’s equally delicate yet involves rough treatment of the plants — weeding. Its towering machine trundles along rows of crops, using computer vision to locate and remove invasive plants, working 24/7, 365 days a year. CEO Sebastian Boyer will speak to the difficulty of this task and how he plans to evolve the machines to become “doctors” for crops, monitoring health and spontaneously removing pests like aphids.

Pyka’s robot is considerably less earthbound than those: an autonomous, all-electric crop-spraying aircraft — with wings! This is a much different challenge from the more stable farming and spraying drones like those of DroneSeed and SkyX, but the choice gives the craft more power and range, hugely important for today’s vast fields. Co-founder Michael Norcia can speak to that scale and his company’s methods of meeting it.

These three companies and founders are at the very frontier of what’s possible at the intersection of agriculture and technology, so expect a fruitful conversation.

$150 early-bird savings end on February 14! Book your $275 Early-Bird Ticket today and put that extra money in your pocket.

Students, grab your super-discounted $50 tickets right here. You might just meet your future employer/internship opportunity at this event.

Startups, we only have five demo tables left for the event. Book your $2,200 demo table here and get in front of some of today’s leading names in the biz. Each table comes with four tickets to attend the show.

Diligent’s Vivian Chu and Labrador’s Mike Dooley will discuss assistive robotics at TC Sessions: Robotics+AI

By Brian Heater

Too often the world of robotics seems to be a solution in search of a problem. Assistive robotics, on the other hand, are among one of the primary real-world tasks existing technology can seemingly address almost immediately.

The concept for the technology has been around for some time now and has caught on particularly well in places like Japan, where human help simply can’t keep up with the needs of an aging population. At TC Sessions: Robotics+AI at U.C. Berkeley on March 3, we’ll be speaking with a pair of founders developing offerings for precisely these needs.

Vivian Chu is the cofounder and CEO of Diligent Robotics. The company has developed the Moxi robot to help assist with chores and other non-patient tasks, in order to allow caregivers more time to interact with patients. Prior to Diligent, Chu worked at both Google[X] and Honda Research Institute.

Mike Dooley is the cofounder and CEO of Labrador Systems. The Los Angeles-based company recently closed a $2 million seed round to develop assistive robots for the home. Dooley has worked at a number of robotics companies including, most recently a stint as the VP of Product and Business Development at iRobot.

Early Bird tickets are now on sale for $275, but you better hurry, prices go up in less than a month by $100. Students can book a super discounted ticket for just $50 right here.

Discount student tickets available for TC Sessions: Mobility 2020

By Emma Comeau

“Revolutionary” may be an over-used adjective, but how else to describe the rapid evolution in mobility technology? Join us in San Jose, Calif., on May 14 for TC Sessions: Mobility 2020. Our second annual day-long conference cuts through the hype and explores the current and future state of the technology and its social, regulatory and economic impact.

If you’re a student with a passion for mobility and transportation tech then listen up. We can’t talk about the future if we’re not willing to invest in the next generation of mobility visionaries. That’s why we offer student tickets at a deep discount — $50 each. Invest in your future, save $200 and spend the day with more than 1,000 of mobility tech’s brightest minds, movers and makers.

As always, you can count on a program packed with top-notch speakers, panel discussions, fireside chats and workshops. We’re in the process of building our agenda, but we’re ready to share our first two guests with you: Boris Sofman and Nancy Sun.

Sofman is the engineering director at Waymo and former co-founder and CEO of Anki. Sun is the co-founder and chief engineer of Ike Robotics. You can read more about Sofman and Sun’s accomplishments. We can’t wait to hear what they have to say about automation and robotics.

Keep checking back, because we’ll announce more exciting speakers in the coming weeks.

You’ll also have plenty of time for world-class networking. What better place for a student to impress — and possibly score a great internship or job? You might even meet a future co-founder or an investor. That knocking sound you hear is opportunity. Open the door.

Hold up…you’re not a student but still love a bargain? We’ve got you covered, too. You can save $100 if you purchase an early-bird ticket before April 9.

Be part of the revolution. Join the mobility and transportation tech community — the top technologists, investors researchers and visionaries — on May 14 at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 in San Jose. Get your student ticket today.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

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