Amazon Complicates Tech Conference Landscape With New ‘re:MARS’ Event

Amazon is introducing a new conference to discuss artificial intelligence (A.I.), machine learning, and other robot-y things.

June 4-7 are the dates, and Las Vegas is the place (specifically, the ARIA Resort and Casino). “We’re at the beginning of a golden age of A.I.,” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said is a statement announcing this new re:MARS event. “Recent advancements have already led to invention that previously lived in the realm of science fiction — and we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible.”

The re:MARS conference spawns from the MARS soiree that Amazon has held for years in Palm Springs, CA. The private get-together featured some of the brightest minds (a New York Times article says the likes of Stephen Wolfram would be milling about the crowd). It’s unclear if the new venue and a more open conference will dissuade thought leaders from attending, or if their roles will morph into speaking and panel appearances.

It’s important to note that Amazon isn’t exactly killing its original MARS conference. Specifically, it says the new re:MARS event was inspired by the smaller MARS one. In other words, it might be taking what it’s learned from Palm Springs and transporting that to Vegas.

Taking a higher-level view, re:MARS seems a measure to position Amazon as an authority on machine learning and artificial intelligence. Between Alexa, its Amazon Go stores, drone delivery projects, and developer tooling, Amazon has enough material on the A.I. front to fill a conference.

At the same time, Amazon is trying to position itself as a leader in these emerging fields, which is a tentative claim. Alexa may be found in many devices, but it’s arguable whether Amazon’s flagship A.I. and ML platform is actually better than the competition. The inclusion of ‘space’ in the re:MARS’ catalog almost ensures this conference is also a means to discuss Bezos’s Blue Origin shuttle program.

We’re left to speculate on what re:MARS will actually be, though. There’s a landing site, but not much in the way of content. We don’t have a schedule of events or lineup of speakers, and there’s no way to sign up. We aren’t even being told how much the event will cost.

It’s also a big ask of tech pros. Amazon’s event is in Las Vegas during one of the city’s hottest months, and far away from the tech-event circuit of Silicon Valley and Seattle. Why Amazon didn’t just piggyback on Microsoft’s BUILD conference, Google I/O, or Apple’s WWDC (which it will almost certainly run concurrent to) is a mystery.

But if AL, ML, robotics, and space are your jam, keep re:MARS in mind for June.