TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics to feature iconic roboticists from MIT, Disney and iRobot

TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics is a couple of months away, and the agenda is filling up. Our one-day event in cooperation with MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) takes place on July 17, and today we’re thrilled to highlight just some of the excitement taking place on stage, in workshops and in exhibits.

Tickets are now available for purchase. Attendance is limited, which is in line with the size of MIT’s Kresge Auditorium as well as our plan to make this robotics event more collegial than huge. A quarter of the seats are reserved for students at a 90% discount over regular prices. If you are a student, send an email to with a copy of your current school transcripts and copy of your student ID card. Once approved, you’ll be sent a link to register. Everyone else, here you go.

Here is a sampling of the agenda, and yes, there are robots. Lots of them. The event is programmed to bring together founders, technologists, researchers and investors. There’s much more to come!


From Big Dog to Disney Imagineering

  • Martin Buehler is Executive R&D Imagineer at Walt Disney Imagineering, where he is leading the effort to create next-generation robotics for Disney’s films and theme parks. Buehler might be best known (so far) for his work on Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog robot. Buehler was also head of R&D at iRobot and also has extensive experience in medical robotics. We’ll hear about the magic he is creating at Disney and how the Imagineers are bringing the latest advances in robotics to their work.

In the Lab at MIT’s CSAIL

  • Daniela Rus is a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT. She works at the intersection of AI and robotics, and has led numerous research projects in transportation, security, environmental monitoring, underwater exploration, and agriculture. Professor Rus will present some of her latest robots and talk about why personal robots will soon be as commonplace as smartphones.

Putting Robots in the Home

  • Colin Angle co-founded iRobot with fellow MIT grads Rod Brooks and Helen Greiner in 1990. Early on, the company provided robots for military applications, and then in 2002, introduced the consumer-focused Roomba. Angle has plenty to talk about. As the CEO and Chairman of iRobot, he led the company through the sale of its military branch in 2016 so the company can focus on robots in homes. If there’s anyone that knows how to both work with the military and manage consumers’ expectations with household robots, it’s Colin Angle and we’re excited to have him speaking at the event.

The Venture Capital View

  • Manish Kothari is president of SRI Ventures and formerly a program director for SRI Robotics. Leading SRI International’s venture arm, Kothari has overseen investments in wearable robotics company Superflex, agricultural robotics startup Abundant Robotics, and other robotics startups still in stealth. Earlier, he worked to commercialize proprietary health and robotics technology for SRI. And he founded a startup called Mytrus that connects companies with cutting-edge medical technologies to patients seeking to participate in their clinical trials. Kothari has an aerospace engineering degree from IIT Bombay, and a PhD in engineering from Cornell.
  • Josh Wolfe is co-founder and Managing Partner of Lux Capital, a fund with $1.1 billion in assets under management. Lux invests in scientists and entrepreneurs pursuing unconventional approaches to the toughest problems. In robotics, Wolfe is known for co-founding and investing early in Kurion, which developed robots to help clean up the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. Veolia acquired Kurion last year for more than $350 million, generating a 40X return for Lux. Wolfe is also a board member at 3Scan, which has developed robotic microscopes and computer vision systems that help doctors model human tissue and arrive at accurate diagnoses.

Kothari and Wolfe will join us on a panel to talk about the state of robotics from a venture standpoint and answer that core question: What does it take to get funding?

Workshop #1

  • Our first workshop will feature five graduate students at MIT’s CSAIL program presenting research projects on the latest collision-avoidance algorithms for drones, custom 3D-printed robots, and controlling robots with the human mind.

Startup Pitch Competition and Student Demos

We are looking for five great early stage startups and student demos for our event. You can apply here and learn more here.

We will announce more programming next week. In the meantime, here are some key links: