On a sunny Saturday in April 2023, Silicon Valley Robotics hosted its annual Robot Block Party in Oakland, California. The event served as a hub for robotics enthusiasts, hobbyists, and makers who gathered to showcase their projects and products. It was like a public school book fair – but for robots.
Those present ranged from industry giants like HEIDENHAIN and Harmonic Drive to industry newcomers like Urban Machine, which showed promising innovation for sustainability – and I even met a fellow audiophile who just wanted to see boomboxes make a comeback (that also sound really good, of course)!
I didn't know what to expect when we arrived. For at least the past six months, I've been on the market to score a sub-$10,000 industrial robot arm for the AMT test bed, and I hoped to shop around for one at the party. While I had no such luck, I met plenty of people who had been in a similar boat and had solid info on where I should look and who else to talk to.
Aside from our motley AMT crew of myself; Bill Herman, vice president – membership and sales; Jordan Marks, customer engagement manager; Chrissie Hahn, director – sales and membership; Andra Keay, vice president – global robotics; and Ryan Kelly, general manager, San Francisco Tech Lab; there was one more familiar “face” present from AMT – literally. Ed Christopher, vice president – global services, attended remotely and scooted around the party via an OhmniLabs Telepresence robot. I even managed to take a selfie with him and his more cybernetic form.
Now, you can’t talk about a party without mentioning food and drink! There was no alcohol to be consumed here, but if that is what you’re looking for, you can attend an IEEE and SVR Bots & Beer event. The food, though? If you felt a little peckish before lunch, you could go outside and grab a popsicle from Bliss Pops. I highly recommend it!
When it was time for lunch, Brazilian barbecue was on the menu. I’ve been to Brazilian steakhouses before, but never this. The easiest way for me to describe it is Peruvian pollo a la brasa, but instead of chicken, it was steak so good that my mouth waters writing this weeks later. The cherry on top was that we were served by all the owners and founders of the companies that were alumni of the Circuit Launch incubator. It was a wholesome moment seeing them pay back the community they grew from.
While I didn't purchase a robot, I gained valuable insights into the manufacturing industry, specifically from the maker's perspective, through attending some of the scheduled seminars and networking with other attendees. Overall, the Robot Block Party was an excellent opportunity to experience the exciting developments and possibilities in robotics.