The Robotics Science and Systems Conference 2021 ends on a good note

The Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS) Conference since 2005 has set itself the goal of presenting bold ideas and creating lively debates within the community.

This conference, which was first held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), takes place year after year and moves from the USA via Italy to Germany all over the world. The events of 2020 could not cancel this event either, the conference will be virtual for the first time and will continue to host this year.

The Robotics Science and Systems Conference 2021 started on July 12th. Screenshot courtesy of Robotics: Science and Systems

With keynote and workshop topics ranging from future Mars technology to GPU-accelerated learning and control for robotics, this conference hopes to offer something to both robotics veterans and newbies alike. Before we move on to this year’s conferences, however, let’s take a look at the conference as a whole.

An overview of the RSS conference

Where: Virtually on his website via a PheedLoop, with videos uploaded here on YouTube.

When: 12.-16. July 2021

Registration costs:

  • Students: USD 20
  • Non-students: USD 50


  • Paper prices
  • Keynote lectures
  • Early career talks
  • Workshops & tutorials

Awards offered:

  • Best student work
  • Best system paper in memory of Seth Teller
  • Early career spotlight
  • Award for the best reviewer
  • Best student presentation
  • Best student poster
  • Best open source code

The RSS offers a wide range of research prize categories and archives each work as open source so that anyone can learn and read any accepted work. Every year there is a call for papers, this year the deadline is March 1st. If you think you have a paper that could benefit this conference, keep an eye out for the next year’s conference announcement to meet the submission deadlines.

Some of the topics that the RSS Foundation suggests for submission range from:

  • Mechanisms and construction,
  • Robots learn
  • Control and dynamism,
  • Human-robot interaction,
  • Robot perception,
  • Multi-robot systems,
  • Healthcare and medical robotics and much more

Now that an overview has been created, let’s take a look at some of the interesting events of this year’s conference.

Attractions in 2021

With well-known sponsors from Amazon and Toyota to Waymo and NVIDIA, this conference aims to inspire and delve deep into the field of robotics.


This year’s conference offered only two keynotes: “Robotic Mars Exploration: Recent Results and Future Prospects” and “How Could a Robot Be Sexist? Evaluating Bias in Artificial Intelligence”.

Larry Matthies (left) and Ayanna Howard (right) are the two keynote speakers at this year’s RSS conference. Screenshot courtesy of Robotics: Science and Systems

The keynote on the robot exploration of Mars talks about the Mars rover Perseverance, what it has achieved so far and what it wants to achieve in the future with its missions called Mars Sample Return Campaign. Getting the inside information direct from Larry Matthies, a senior research scientist at NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory, can be a rare opportunity to see the prospect of Mars exploration missions.

As for the Bias Assessment Keynote, Ayanna Howard talks about how AI machines are not just things out of Hollywood fantasies, but that they have the potential to change the daily life of humanity. She explores the concept of distortions and how they affect the next generation of robotic systems. To aid this conversation, she also explores tools and techniques researchers can use to get a more positive outcome and avoid as much prejudice as possible.

Workshops and tutorials:

This year’s conference offered a wide range of workshops and tutorials. One workshop that has generated some interest is “Visual Learning and Reasoning for Robotics”. This full day workshop focused on how a robot’s interaction within the physical world develops its visual perception and how the physical world leads to more robust robot control through better understanding through visual learning and thinking.

An overview of the “3D Neural Scene Representations for Visuomotor Control” project covered in this workshop Image courtesy of Li et al

Another point of interest was the tutorial entitled “End-to-End GPU-accelerated Learning and Control for Robotics with Isaac Gym”. This tutorial, led by representatives from NVIDIA, covers Reinforcement Learning (RL). Namely, an end-to-end GPU-accelerated workout using Isaac Gym, a NIVIDIA simulation program. This tutorial delved into Isaac Gym’s Tensor Application Program Interface (API), which developed the GPU-accelerated training. From there, they demonstrated various use cases and had various guest speakers from the university speak about these case studies.

While this was just one example of a workshop and tutorial presented at this year’s RSS conference, there were many others that were interesting.

End of a week-long robotics conference

The world of robotics is growing and adapting all the time, especially as machine learning and AI are increasingly becoming a stable concept. By interacting and learning from conferences like RSS, it is possible to create a diverse and open environment to share knowledge and talk to colleagues and those interested in robotics.

Although this conference ends today, both papers and videos are available for those who are a little late or interested in further investigation. It will be interesting to see what the conference brings to the table next year.

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