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IROS Robotics Conference Is Online Now and Completely Free

Join 13,000 online attendees for the world’s largest virtual robotics conference

3 min read
IROS logo
Image: IEEE Spectrum

The 2020 International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) was originally going to be held in Las Vegas this week. Like ICRA last spring, IROS has transitioned to a completely online conference, which is wonderful news: Now everyone everywhere can participate in IROS without having to spend a dime on travel.

IROS officially opened yesterday, and the best news is that registration is entirely free! We’ll take a quick look at what IROS has on offer this year, which includes some stuff that’s brand news to IROS.

Registration for IROS is super easy, and did we mention that it’s free? To register, just go here and fill out a quick and easy form. You don’t even have to be an IEEE Member or anything like that, although in our unbiased opinion, an IEEE membership is well worth it. Once you get the confirmation email, go to, put in the email address you used to register, and that’s it, you’ve got IROS!

Here are some highlights:

Plenaries and Keynotes

Without the normal space and time constraints, you won’t have to pick and choose between any of the three plenaries or 10 keynotes. Some of them are fancier than others, but we’re used to that sort of thing by now. It’s worth noting that all three plenaries (and three of the 10 keynotes) are given by extraordinarily talented women, which is excellent to see.

Technical Tracks

There are over 1,400 technical talks, divided up into 12 categories of 20 sessions each. Note that each of the 12 categories that you see on the main page can be scrolled through to show all 20 of the sessions; if there’s a bright red arrow pointing left or right you can scroll, and if the arrow is transparent, you’ve reached the end.

On the session page, you’ll see an autoplaying advertisement (that you can mute but not stop), below which each talk has a preview slide, a link to a ~15 minute presentation video, and another link to a PDF of the paper. No supplementary videos are available, which is a bit disappointing. While you can leave a comment on the video, there’s no way of interacting with the author(s) directly through the IROS site, so you’ll have to check the paper for an email address if you want to ask a question.

Award Finalists

IROS has thoughtfully grouped all of the paper award finalists together into nine sessions. These are some truly outstanding papers, and it’s worth watching these sessions even if you’re not interested in specific subject matter.

Workshops and Tutorials

This stuff is a little more impacted by asynchronicity and on-demandedness, and some of the workshops and tutorials have already taken place. But IROS has done a good job at collecting videos of everything and making them easy to access, and the dedicated websites for the workshops and tutorials themselves sometimes have more detailed info. If you’re having trouble finding where the workshops and tutorial section is, try the “Entrance” drop-down menu up at the top.

IROS Original Series

In place of social events and lab tours, IROS this year has come up with the “IROS Original Series,” which “hosts unique content that would be difficult to see at in-person events.” Right now, there are some interviews with a diverse group of interesting roboticists, and hopefully more will show up later on.


Everything on the IROS On-Demand site should be available for at least the next month, so there’s no need to try and watch a thousand presentations over three days (which is what we normally have to do). So, relax, and enjoy yourself a bit by browsing all the options. And additional content will be made available over the next several weeks, so make sure to check back often to see what’s new.

[ IROS 2020 ]

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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