Jeff Bezos and robot dog
This picture of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos taking a stroll with a SpotMini robot dog went viral during last year’s MARS conference. What will he do this year? (Jeff Bezos via Twitter)

If it’s March, it’s time for MARS: Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ annual invitation-only festival celebrating Machine learning, Automation, Robotics and Space is ramping up in Palm Springs, Calif., and attendees are already starting to spread the word about the sights and insights.

As usual, we’re on the outside looking in, based on tweets with the #MARS2019 hashtag and reports from those closer to the scene at The Parker Resort.

We know that “Star Wars” star Mark Hamill is at MARS because he shows up in the background of a selfie tweeted out by gravitational-wave researcher Chiara Mingarelli:

And we know that retired NASA astronaut Story Musgrave, one of the spacewalking saviors of the Hubble Space Telescope, is also in attendance — thanks to a couple of tweets from Wobbly Labs game developer Robin Baumgarten:

Several other MARSonauts are tweeting that they’re in Palm Springs:

And earlier today, Business Insider passed along some intel about some of the signage and gadgets that are being put in place for this week’s conference.

Blue Origin, Bezos’ space venture, will have a significant presence. And a type of solar-powered oceangoing drone, known as the Saildrone, has been trucked in.

Attendees will get in on a wide assortment of demos and tech talks, with plenty of time for geeking out and partying down. After three years of MARS, Bezos and his Amazon teammates have fine-tuned the model well enough to offer an open-to-the-public version of the conference, called re:MARS, from June 4 to 7 in Las Vegas.

But the fact that this week’s event is hush-hush and invitation-only adds a sense of mystery that re:MARS may not be able to match. And the biggest mystery is: What will Bezos do to wow the MARS crowd this year?

At last year’s MARS conference, Bezos created a sensation just by having his picture taken with Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini robot by his side. “Taking my new dog for a walk at the #MARS2018 conference,” he tweeted.

And the year before that, he opened MARS by stomping onstage behind the controls of a giant Korean-built robot suit. “Why do I feel so much like Sigourney Weaver,” he cracked, referring to the exoskeleton-wielding heroine of the “Alien” movies.

This year, maybe it’ll be Jeff Bezos in a jetpack, or in a quadcopter. Why not? Anything could happen at MARS. We’ll be refreshing this report throughout the week with tweets and other tidbits as they filter out from Palm Springs.

This report was last updated at 11 p.m. PT March 17.

Source: geekwire