Tolga Talks Tech: Amazon re:MARS

Tolga Talks Tech is a weekly video series in which Onica’s CTO Tolga Tarhan tackles technical topics related to AWS and cloud computing. This week, Tolga discusses the Amazon re:MARS 2019 conference with Ryan Ries, Senior Director – Data Science & Engineering at Onica. For more videos in this series, click here

Amazon hosted the Amazon re: MARS conference, a Machine Learning, Automation, Robotics & Space conference in June 2019, that shed light on the latest AI trends, inventions and business solutions as well as how AI is used to maximize innovation at leading companies. 

So Ryan, you attended Amazon re:MARS recently. Tell us more about it.

Amazon re:MARS was a really interesting event where they brought together scientists from different research areas and had several days’ worth of keynotes and breakout sessions where they were talking about some of the different services and projects that were featured there.

What were some of the interesting sessions presented at the conference?

I think one of the most interesting sessions that I saw was out of the Robotics track where they were talking about the lionfish infestation out in Florida and down in the Caribbean. Lionfish are really interesting because they have no natural predators and end up destroying all the coral reefs and creating a massive biological issue in the Florida Keys. It’s very interesting that someone created a robot with the aid of volunteers, and they go out there and it stuns the lionfish and then basically vacuums it up into the tube. The woman that was presenting the work had built these and tried to get fishermen to buy them. And these are basically joysticks, wherein you sit there with your Xbox controller and put in your unmanned underwater vehicle and it goes to capture the fish and brings home dinner. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future.

Were there any announcements or discoveries in the Machine Learning and AI space at the conference?

A lot of talk was around Amazon Alexa and how it is powering the future. The biggest thing they rolled out was a feature where, if you talk about wanting to have a night out, Alexa will offer something like ‘Hey, do you want movie tickets?’ and then “Oh here’s a restaurant nearby, do you want to go to a restaurant?”. It’ll buy the movie tickets for you and make a reservation at the restaurant. Hence, they are trying to give Alexa more skill in planning events such as planning your whole night out. 

Robert Downey Jr. discussed an initiative he is putting together called the Footprint Coalition where they are going to try to clean up the world’s oceans. If you have looked at the news, there is a lot of plastic in the oceans, with estimates of floating plastic the size of Texas out in the middle of the Pacific. There are some companies already cleaning that up but Robert Downey Jr., having spent the last 11 years focussed on the Avengers, now wants to focus on the Earth and to try and clean it up using Robotics and Nano-technology. It will be interesting to see the coalition he brings together and what kind of funding and resources he can secure to really try and make the Earth a better place.

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