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June 5, 2019

OpenAI Robotics Symposium 2019

We hosted the first OpenAI Robotics Symposium on April 27, 2019.

Robotics Symposium 2019

Photo: Blake Tucker

Robots that learn are an exciting path forward, yet there are differing approaches and opinions on how to make progress. The event brought together a diverse set of people from both robotics and machine learning communities as well as academics and industry leaders to create a platform to exchange ideas and address open questions in building complex robot systems.

Why this event?

Robots that learn are a development that will allow robots to become part of our everyday lives. While we have some ideas on how to get there, we think it is important to engage with people from other organizations and disciplines to exchange and discuss ideas. Creating these robots is inherently a multidisciplinary approach—it not only requires technical expertise, but also a deeper understanding of how these robots can be deployed safely and interact with humans in the real world.

A group of four people chatting around an outdoor table with benches at the Robotics Symposium

The participants

We hosted ~80 external attendees at our office and ~200 people joined remotely via our livestream throughout the day. We had attendees from industry labs like Google, Facebook, and NVIDIA in addition to students, postdocs and professors from universities like Stanford(opens in a new window)UC Berkeley(opens in a new window)CMU(opens in a new window) and MIT(opens in a new window). We also had hobbyists, artists, roboticists, and machine learning researchers in the crowd.

The talks


Dexterity demo

Since the event was hosted at our office, we took the opportunity to perform a live demo(opens in a new window) of our humanoid robot hand manipulating a block using vision and reinforcement learning.

An outstretched robotic arm solving a Rubrik's cube in its palm at the Robotics' Symposium

We were excited to show the hand to people and have the OpenAI Robotics team “on hand” to answer their questions! We hope to do this again in the future as it is a very different experience to see this in person.

Symposium Demo Wide

Next steps

We were extremely pleased with the outcome of the event—this was an experimental format and our expectations were definitely exceeded. The talks during the day led to interesting discussions within our team and resulted in some new ideas (e.g., self-supervision) and perspectives (e.g., traditional robotics vs deep learning robotics). After chatting with the participants and speakers, it was clear everyone felt they benefited from this event and left with a shared understanding of the diversity in the different approaches to solving the same problems. Given this feedback, we intend to repeat this format in the future, possibly as an annual symposium. We’ll share details about upcoming events at a later date.

If you would like to help us do research on robots that learn, please get in touch! We’re hiring.

Thanks to Loren Kwan, Diane Yoon, and Maddie Hall for co-organizing the event, to all the OpenAI staff volunteers, and to Blake Tucker for filming and photography.