Welcome to TC Sessions: Robotics 2022

Just over a month ago, I was standing onstage at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall, delivering the opening remarks for TechCrunch’s first-ever climate event. It was a surreal moment that perfectly encapsulated the strange time warp we’ve both quickly and slowly been hurdling through over the past two-and-a-half years. It was the first time I’d been back in the venue since our last robotics event in March 2020.

TC Sessions: Robotics 2020 was a strange event for entirely different reasons. No one knew how long and difficult of a ride we were in for. We were still hopeful that stocking the venue with a few extra Purell kiosks would ward off the recently determined threat.

I was excited to be back onstage in Boston this year for the first time since our inaugural event, but the best laid plans have little bearing during a global pandemic. So, in lieu of delivering these words off a teleprompter as the morning audience files in, I’m instead typing them to you on TechCrunch. Maybe close your eyes for a moment and pretend you’re seated in a theater chair, inside a packed conference center hall, as a disarmingly handsome hardware editor gives you a little background on today’s event.

In spite of being entirely online, TC Sessions: Robotics 2022 is very much rooted in the city of Boston. This is partially a product of our initial programming and partially a response to having been in Berkeley for the previous four shows. I love Berkeley and can happily tell you a few great places around town to get a killer shawarma, but the East Coast broadly — and Boston, specifically — were long overdue for some TechCrunch love. In fact, I was planning to be back in town a few weeks ago, but had to stupidly go and catch COVID in Las Vegas.

Boston makes a strong case for the world’s greatest robotics city, thanks to the wildly disproportionate number of world-class universities. Like Pittsburgh, it’s done an increasingly good job of keeping startups in town, rather than fleeing to cities like San Francisco and New York.

It permeates today’s programming from MIT and Harvard researchers, to VC firms like E14, FoundersX Ventures and The Engine, collectives like MassRobotics and companies like Boston Dynamics, Berkshire Grey, Amazon Robotics and Veo. And, of course, we’re kicking things off with Boston’s former mayor turned Labor Secretary, Marty Walsh.

I’m extremely excited to finally be bringing this event to you, and am incredibly honored by all of the hard work my colleagues have invested to bring you this day-long event. The topics we’re discussing here today are more vital than ever, propelled by a pandemic that has accelerated robotics and automation from lab research to real-world technologies that will have an increasingly profound impact on our daily lives.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that we started dreaming up this event the moment we got off-stage in March 2020. I’m not thrilled that external forces meant it would take us this long to get here, but I’m hoping you’ll agree it was worth the wait.