We Robot 2021 Will Be Virtual After All

I was very sorry to have to make this announcement:

We had hoped very much to have a live event, but circumstances make it clear that it’s not to be. We’d looked forward to welcoming you back to Coral Gables, but we’ve decided that due to safety concerns we have to take We Robot to a fully virtual format again.

Starting with its first edition here in Miami, We Robot has sought — we think successfully — to create and encourage interdisciplinary conversations about robotics (and AI) law and policy. We now have a decade’s worth of success at evolving a common vocabulary and a body of work which includes bedrock scholarship for the rapidly expanding fields represented at the conference. We have fostered, and continue to foster connections between a diverse, international, and interdisciplinary group of scholars, ranging from graduate students to senior professors to persons in government and industry. And — not least — we’ve had a lot of fun doing it.

We’re currently exploring various conference tools that we hope will make it easy not only to have an engaging event with significant audience participation, but also will facilitate the side conversations that are part of what makes We Robot the exciting event it has always been. Watch our homepage for the latest news.

We will soon be posting drafts of the papers that will be presented at We Robot. We may be going virtual, but we’re not changing the format: you will have a chance to read the papers before the conference, and indeed we hope that you will do so and come armed with your thoughts and questions. Other than on panels, authors will not present their own papers – instead our discussant will give a quick summary and critique, and then we’ll open it up to questions from the audience. For the panels, the authors speak briefly, then we go to Q&A. Links to the papers will appear on the program page of the website and in a series of blog posts on the front page of the site.

The good news that by going virtual we are no longer capacity constrained. We’re also reducing the price structure of the event. Registration for the workshop day will be only $25; registration for the two-day main conference will be $49 for everyone except for all students, and for UMiami faculty, for whom it will be $25 including the workshop. We do have some fee waivers available if these fees are a hardship for you. If you have already registered you will be notified directly about processing any refunds that may be due.

Although we will not be able to see you in person, we look forward very much to your virtual participation in We Robot 2021. The heart of We Robot has always been in participation by its attendees, and we will do all we can to preserve that.

See you soon–virtually.

[Cross-posted from the We Robot 2021 blog]

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3 Responses to We Robot 2021 Will Be Virtual After All

  1. I’m sorry, but also relieved not to have to make either the decision to go or to not go.

    My feeling after last year was that we’d have had a lot more interaction if we’d had Zoom rooms. WR is pretty orderly anyway, so live discussions ought to be a possibility. A number of conferences I’ve been to have also done some things of very brief – 10 minutes – breakouts in which each room is randomly assigned 3-5 people. You do get to meet people you don’t already know that way, and it’s short. Others assign a topic to each room and people are randomly assigned but can change rooms at will. Those have often worked pretty well, too.

    What I haven’t cared for is these efforts to simulate real-world conference halls – the things with virtual tables and bubbles, and moving around etc. – very unsatisfactory – more interface than interaction. You could have done all that more easily in Second Life, and yet..


  2. I was not fond of Hopin when I had to try it. Whovia is unknown to me. I would be happy to serve as a beta tester for whatever arrangements you make, should you need one.

    (CPDP had some virtual environment that forced you to “walk” from the entrance through the “exhibition hall” to the bar to socialize. Oh. My. God, even WorldsAway had teleport.)


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