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Rise of the Robots: Santa Clara Convention Center Hosts Expo for Emerging Robotics Technology

Whether it’s a mechanical arm soldering car parts in a Detroit factory, an Amazon drone delivering products to your doorstep or a Roomba vacuuming your carpet, robots can make your lives easier.

So, showcasing what cutting-edge robotics technology can do is increasingly important. RoboBusiness is conference put on by Robotics Business Review to bring like-minded people in the field together, allowing them to forge partnerships.

“It is really about talking to people in the industry,” said attendee Steve Francz, 60, of Austin, Texas. “You can sort of get a good sense of where things are going.”


While many of the products intrigued him, Francz said he would like to see more interactive robots. Whether he will return next year depends on how the connections he made this year pan out, he said.

This year, the conference took place at the Santa Clara Convention Center. The three-day expo, held in September, featured robots from various industries ranging from medicine to food service and featured keynote addresses by industry experts.

Jim Wagner, managing director of RoboBusiness, said having the conference in Silicon Valley is important because so many large tech firms are located here. The goal of robotics, he said, is to “help people become more self-sufficient.”

Strolling through the Convention Center, many vendors vyed for attendees’ attention. Several displayed robots that were only tangentially related to their products to make what they do more appealing, to allow attendees to visualize how their technology is applicable.

One such exhibitor, Advanced Motor Controls, displayed a robot that spat metal ball bearings out of plastic tubes into the air in time, the way torrents of water synchronize in a public fountain.

Jackson McKay, a marketing engineer with company, said Advanced Motor Controls designs drives that send command signals to motors to get them to do what the user wants. But simply displaying their drives doesn’t illustrate the concept as well. The goal, he said, is to demonstrate why precision matters.

“We want to make sure people looking for precision control can find us,” McKay said.

The conference also acts as a springboard for up-and-coming startups.

The Pitchfire Startup Competition, Wagner said, helps bring companies that “might evolve into major players” into the mix. The competition pits startup companies against one another by having them deliver five-minute presentations to would-be investors and business partners. The winner gets $5,000 and a is profiled in Robotics Business Review.

While the conference is mostly aimed at those in the robotics business, Wagner said the layperson could also find the conference interesting, depending on their interests.

“If you are an avid observer of technology, and you want to see how things are going to play in this space, this conference is a good place to see that,” he said.

While those interviewed said they were impressed with many of the exhibitors, it was also apparent the conference is still in its infancy, with many commenting on what they would like to see more of.

Noriaki Hirose, 38, a Japanese visiting scholar at Stanford, said he was hoping to see more mechanical robotics technology paired with artificial intelligence.

Robyn McInnis, 24, a mechanical engineer from Sunnyvale, said she is designing a drink-serving robot and came to the expo in hopes of seeing more consumer robots.

Although few exhibitors displayed robotics applications that could be marketed directly to consumers, McInnis said she is optimistic the market could begin trending that direction.

“It will move there,” she said. “As technology gets better, it will get there.”

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