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White House Frontiers: Robots, Space Exploration, and the Future of American Innovation

The Frontiers conference will bring together innovators who are reimagining the boundaries of what’s possible and shaping the future.

White House Frontiers Conference Logo

President Obama will travel to Pittsburgh, PA, on October 13 to host the White House Frontiers Conference, bringing together the Nation’s top innovators to discuss how new frontiers in science and technology will help improve lives and shape the future.  Today, we’re excited to announce more details about the event, which will include voices from five frontiers of innovation—personal, local, national, global, and interplanetary.  From developing personalized treatments for diseases like Alzheimer’s or cancer, to harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to improve lives, to sending humans to Mars, the conference will explore innovations that hold the potential to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges and keep America on the cutting edge.   

The White House is co-hosting the Frontiers Conference with the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). The event will include topics inspired by the November issue of WIRED, where guest-editor President Obama will explore the theme of “Frontiers” that will shape the coming decades. 

The President sits for a 3D portrait being produced by the Smithsonian Institution. There were so many cameras and strobe lights flashing but the end result was kind of cool. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President sits for a 3D portrait being produced by the Smithsonian Institution. There were so many cameras and strobe lights flashing but the end result was kind of cool. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama to Participate in a Conversation on the Future of Medicine and Health Care Innovation

As part of the Personal Frontiers dialogue, President Obama will join a conversation with Atul Gawande and innovators in medicine and health care to discuss future health breakthroughs, such as those being driven by the Administration’s BRAIN and Precision Medicine Initiatives.

The conference’s plenary session will also include a talk by Tim O’Reilly, one of the leading voices in how the online world will continue to evolve; a live podcast with Roman Mars, the host of 99% Invisible, and Raj Chetty, whose work on economic mobility is changing how we think about inequality in America; remarks from Charles Orgbon III who will bring a student’s voice to the imperative of addressing our climate challenges; and a discussion on increasing access to space with panelists including NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman, Erika Wagner from Blue Origin, and Anousheh Ansari, the first female private space explorer.

The Five Frontiers of Innovation

Personal Frontiers will give participants a window into the next breakthroughs in health care innovation and precision medicine.  Speakers will include:

  • Dean Kamen, Founder, DEKA Research and Development
  • Freda Lewis-Hall, Chief Medical Officer and EVP, Pfizer
  • James Park, CEO, Fitbit
  • Other speakers will include: University of California, San Francisco; University of Pittsburgh; FasterCures; OpenAPS; Columbia University; MIT Media Lab; and the National Institutes of Health

Local Frontiers will explore how we can leverage technology, data, and community engagement to build smarter and more inclusive communities, including through innovative new approaches to transportation challenges, criminal justice reform, leveraging local data, and innovative education.  Speakers will include:

  • Anthony Foxx, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation
  • Mayor William Peduto, City of Pittsburgh, and Mayor Ed Lee, City of San Francisco
  • Robin Chase, Co-Founder and former CEO, Zipcar
  • Other speakers will include: Streetwyze; BitSource; University of Chicago; City of Knoxville Police Department; and the Massachussets Department of Public Health

National Frontiers will explore how companies and leading thinkers are working to responsibly harness the potential of artificial intelligence, including data science, machine learning, automation, and robotics to engage and benefit all Americans. Speakers will include:

  • Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf
  • Denis McDonough, White House Chief of Staff
  • Fei-Fei Li, Computer Science Professor, Stanford University
  • Other speakers will include: University of Illinois, Chicago; Johns Hopkins University; Microsoft; Google; Facebook; IBM; Uber; Texas A&M; DARPA; University of Pittsburgh; CMU; University of California, Berkeley; University of Washington; and MIT

Global Frontiers will discuss strategies to combat the global threat of climate change by accelerating the clean energy revolution and developing advanced climate information, tools, services, and collaborations.  Speakers will include:

  • Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots, X
  • Representative Mike Doyle (PA-14)
  • Brooke Runnette, Executive Vice President, Chief Program and Impact Officer, National Geographic Society
  • Other speakers will include: Opus12; University of California, Berkeley; Energy Excelerator; Esri; Amazon Web Services; MIT; CMU; Louisiana State University; and Prairie A&M University

Interplanetary Frontiers will reach out to the “final frontier” and the next stage of space exploration, including the journey to Mars. Speakers will include:

  • Dr. Ellen Stofan, Chief Scientist, NASA
  • Rod Roddenberry, Jr., CEO of Roddenberry Entertainment and Founder of the Roddenberry Foundation
  • George Whitesides, CEO, Virgin Galactic
  • Other speakers will include: Moon Express; Space Systems Loral; The Tauri Group; Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Adler Planetarium; Vanderbilt University; Planet, Made in Space; Astrobotic/CMU; and University of Colorado

In the coming days, we will announce additional speakers and information about the event. Check out in the days ahead for more details on the above participants and updates, and tune in there to watch sessions live on October 13.

In continued celebration of exploration and new frontiers, the Allegheny Observatory at the University of Pittsburgh will also host the White House Frontiers Conference Astronomy Night to close out the conference.  Featuring telescopes for stargazing, tours of the historic observatory, and astronomers, the event will bring together conference participants and students to celebrate science, innovation, and the spirit of discovery.

Have a question for one of our speakers?  We want to hear from you. Tweet your questions using #WHFrontiers.