Last week Synapse hosted the Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) Tech in Focus panel on The Latest Trends in Robotics. About 60 people stopped by and tuned into the live stream to hear the discussion on the latest trends and recent advancements in robotics! The panel gave everyone time to ask questions and mingle afterwards with drinks and snacks.


Jake Sprouse, our Director of Software Engineering, represented Synapse and he was joined by panelists Scott Thielman from Product Creation Studio, Don Pickering from BluHaptics and James McLurkin from Google. Adriana Moscatelli from Robiis did an excellent job moderating the discussion around new applications and the impacts of robotics. Everyone really enjoyed hearing the panelists perspectives and the group seemed to agree that new sensing technology and innovations in compliant actuation and complex locomotion will enable some interesting future applications of robotics.


Don Pickering, the CEO of BluHaptics, shared some incredible insight on how robotics can help us work in places where humans can’t. By using robotics underwater, we can achieve a whole new level of safety, efficiency and predictability. He has found that robotics is still a mechanically focused industry and it’s tough to get the early stage funding that’s needed. He hopes that engineers will collaborate with business leaders to push the limits of robotics.


James McLurkin, a Senior Hardware Engineer at Google, is a self-described “recovering academic.” He described the general definition of robotics—sense, compute, act—and dove deep into the differences between machine learning and artificial intelligence. He drew on dozens of examples, everything R2-D2 to Roomba, to illustrate how robotics can become a huge market success, if they are simple, useful, and have a clever design. He his optimistic of the advancements in sensing, particularly for medical devices.


Scott Thielman, the CTO and founder of Product Creation Studio, shared some great insight on how humans interact with robots. He piped in to answer a question on the cultural differences on the uses of robots and shared that Japan is using public policy to push the envelope to help their aging population. In comparison, the United States can be very critical and concerned about machines that think for themselves.


Jake shared his some additional thoughts after the panel in a Synapse Wall of Cool post… please take a look! Synapse loves any opportunity where leaders in the tech industry can get together and share their incredible insight. We hope to host another Tech in Focus in the future!