Debates on the Future of Robotics Research

Half-Day Virtual Workshop at ICRA 2021

June 4th, 2021  |  13:00 - 18:30 UTC

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

Joseph Joubert

Thank you to our fantastic debaters, moderators, and audience for making the 2021 Debates on the Future of Robotics Research a resounding success!

If you weren't able to tune in live (or if you just want to replay some of the explosive highlights!), you can re-watch the debates on YouTube below.

If you enjoyed this year's debates and you’d like to see more in the future—or if you didn't enjoy the debates, and have ideas on how to make them better—we could really use your help organizing next year’s edition! Send us an email at

-The Robotics Debates Team


Closing Remarks


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.

Following on from previous workshops at ICRA 2019 and ICRA 2020, the third iteration of the debates will be held as part of ICRA 2021.

Workshop Schedule

Debate 1

13:00 - 14:30 UTC

Let it be resolved that...

Individual success metrics prevalent in robotics create perverse incentives that harm the long-term needs of the field.


14:30 - 15:00 UTC

Debate 2

15:00 - 16:30 UTC

Let it be resolved that...

The development of high-stakes autonomous systems warrants taking significant risks with real-world deployment to accelerate progress.


16:30 - 17:00 UTC

Debate 3

17:00 - 18:30 UTC

Let it be resolved that...

The standards for experimental validation are insufficient to ensure that published robotics methods work in the real world.

Closing Remarks

18:30 UTC

Debate Structure

Total Length: 80 minutes


Prof. Jaime Fernández Fisac

Princeton University

General Co-Chair

Felix von Drigalski


General Co-Chair

Brian Wang

Cornell University

Technical Chair

Maíra Saboia

Vale Institute of Technology / NASA JPL

Organizing Committee

Matthew Giamou

University of Toronto

Organizing Committee

Patrícia Alves-Oliveira

University of Washington

Organizing Committee

Sarah Tang


Organizing Committee

Sudharshan Suresh

Carnegie Mellon University

Organizing Committee

Prof. Florian Shkurti

University of Toronto

Organizing Committee

Prof. Jonathan Kelly

University of Toronto

Organizing Committee

Prof. Sylvia Herbert


Organizing Committee

Advisory Committee


Please address all inquiries and questions about the workshop to