Debates on the Future of Robotics Research

Full-Day Virtual Workshop part of ICRA 2020

June 5, 2020 | Start: 09:00(AM) EDT

Workshop Video Archive

The 2020 ICRA debates have concluded! You can find an archive of the live stream below. A huge thank you to all of our debators, moderators and audience members who helped make each debate constructive and entertaining! If you have any feedback about the event or would like to help organize a similar event next year, please email us or drop a note in the #ws4 ICRA Slack channel.

You can also find a list of submitted audience questions for each debate here: 2020 audience questions.

It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.

Joseph Joubert

As an interdisciplinary field that has the potential to change and be changed by numerous diverse stakeholders, the future and potential impact of robotics research are frequent subjects of debate. We believe making these debates more formal and public can be beneficial to the general community.

After a successful debates workshop at ICRA 2019, a second edition of the debates will be held at ICRA 2020.

Workshop Schedule

Friday, June 5, 2020

Opening Remarks

09:00 - 09:10 EDT (UTC-4)
Welcome and introduction from the organizing committee.

Debate 1

09:10 - 10:30 EDT (UTC-4)
Let it be resolved that...
The costs of large, global, in-person conferences (like ICRA) outweigh the benefits.

moderated by

Oliver Brock TU Berlin
Ruzena Bajcsy UC Berkeley
Katherine J. Kuchenbecker Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems
Gregory Dudek McGill / Samsung

Debate 2

10:40 - 12:00 EDT (UTC-4)
Let it be resolved that...
Robotics research is over-reliant on benchmark datasets and simulation.

moderated by

Michael Milford QUT
Aleksandra Faust Google Brain
Pieter Abbeel UC Berkeley
Davide Scaramuzza ETH Zurich, University of Zurich

Debate 3

12:10 - 13:30 EDT (UTC-4)
Let it be resolved that...
Robots designed for personal or household use have failed because of fundamental misunderstandings of Human-Robot Interaction (HRI).

moderated by

Hadas Kress-Gazit Cornell

Debate Structure

Total Length: 80 min

  1. Introductions & initial audience poll (5 min)
  2. Opening arguments (20 min = 4 debaters x 5 min each)
  3. Moderated discussion between debaters + audience Q&A (15 min)
  4. Closing remarks (10 min = 4 debaters x 2.5 min each)
  5. Final audience poll + polling results (5 min)
  6. Moderated panel debrief + audience Q&A (15 to 20 min)

ICRA 2019 Debates

The workshop was first inspired by the debates that took place at the International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) in 2018.

Debate #1
Debate #2
Debate #2
Debate #3

You can read more about last year's event on the 2019 web page.

2019 Website

We have also published a Robotics & Automation Magazine article about the event.

IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine Article

Clement, Lee, et al. "Where Do We Go From Here? Debates on the Future of Robotics Research at ICRA 2019 [From the Field]." IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine 26.3 (2019): 7-10.

Organizing Committee

Matthew Giamou University of Toronto
Valentin Peretroukhin University of Toronto / MIT
Lee Clement Oxbotica
Prof. Jonathan Kelly University of Toronto


Please address all inquiries and questions about the workshop to or ask a question in the #ws4 ICRA Slack channel.