Amazon’s top robotics engineer joins AI startup Scale


By Ellen HuetMatt Day

At Amazon, Porter oversaw teams working on the robots and software that power the company’s warehouses. — AFP

Amazon.com Inc’s top robotics engineer, who recently defended the company’s warehouse working conditions, left to join the artificial intelligence startup Scale AI Inc.

Brad Porter will serve as chief technology officer, Scale announced Aug 31. Scale makes software to help people train autonomous driving technology and other computer vision systems. The business was valued at more than US$1bil last year, when Scale’s then-22-year-old co-founder raised venture capital.

Porter said he was persuaded to leave his position because he was excited about Scale’s technology and the opportunity to work in a startup environment. Earlier in his career, Porter worked for web browsing pioneer Netscape and Tellme Networks, a voice search and telephone applications company later acquired by Microsoft Corp. "There’s this wave right now where the AI tools are good enough to do really, really powerful things,” he said.

At Amazon, Porter oversaw teams working on the robots and software that power the company’s warehouses, as well as initiatives like drones and autonomous delivery robots. When a senior Amazon engineer resigned this year in protest after the company fired two internal critics, Porter penned what amounted to a semi-official defense of the company on LinkedIn.

In his new role, Porter will oversee the engineering teams at Scale. Alexandr Wang, the chief executive officer, said he hopes Porter can help his company make AI tools more widely accessible. "We’re building the roads and pipes for people around the world to be able to use this,” Wang said, "so that you don't need a Ph.D. to be able to do machine learning.” – Bloomberg

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