Archive | September, 2021

We Robot 2021 Prizes

Congratulations to our Prize winners:

Prize Committee

Meredeth K. Broussard
Ryan Calo (recused on the Poster award)
Kate Darling (Chair)

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#WeRobot Tenth Anniversary: Virtual but Still Vital

#WeRobot had a great Workshop day; now the heavy lifting begins.

See the Program page for the next two days’ schedule and for links to all the papers, demos, and more.

Our conference software allows a healthy back-channel discussion, and this was in full form yesterday–expect even more today.

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#WeRobot Login Reminder

If you are using Whova for the first time, after you have registered for We Robot, create an account here.

If you have a Whova account, and are already registered for We Robot, you can go straight to the WeRobot 2021 Whova login.

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#WeRobot Features Workshops Today

Looking behind the curtain: What robots can (and cannot) do and how that influences the types of policies that can (and cannot) be written

Bill Smart

Bill Smart and Cindy Grimm will lead this workshop session at 11:00am on Thursday, September 23rd at #werobot.

Cindy Grimm

Machine learning is <gasp> just a glorified spreadsheet. Robots do not (and will not) fail in the same way that people do. We’ll use a mix of demonstrations and your own experience with common apps to highlight those differences. Our intention is to help you build up a better mental model of what robots can do, and how they can fail. We’ll close with an open discussion on how law and policy language might be adapted to account for this difference (What is a “reasonable good-faith effort” for a deployed robotic system?)


if(goingToTurnEvil), {don’t();}: Creating Legal Rules for Robots

Evan Selinger

Evan Selinger and Woody Hartzog will lead this workshop session at 1:00pm on Thursday, September 23rd at #werobot.

Woody Harzog

A lawyer, a roboticist, and a sociologist (or other discipline) walk into a bar…to form multidisciplinary teams attempting to craft some hypothetical legislation. Drafting laws can be just as frustrating as getting your code to work. When you combine emergent issues in robotics with social dynamics and you’ve got quite a challenge.

This experiential session combines law, robotics, and group fun. We’ll be working our way through how the legal sausage is made and try our hand at crafting some legal rules to solve some not-so hypothetical problems.


Finding your Path, Your People, and Your Conference Program–Networking Break

Ryan Calo

Kristen Thomasen

Sue Glueck






Ryan Calo, Sue Glueck, and Kristen Thomasen will lead this workshop session at 2:00pm on Thursday, September 23rd at #werobot.

New this year:  the workshop will feature 3 simultaneous networking/mentoring sessions during one of the breaks:  (1) How to do interdisciplinary research in this space; (2) What do I want to be when I grow up; (3) Welcome to We Robot for newbies.  We hope you’ll take advantage of this opportunity to connect!


Why Call Them Robots? 100 Years of R.U.R.

Robin Murphy

Robin Murphy, Joanne Pransky and Jeremy Brett will lead this workshop session at 3:00pm on Thursday, September 23rd at #werobot.

A roboticist, a science fiction librarian, and a robot psychiatrist walk into a … We Robot panel to present multidisciplinary perspectives on R.U.R., the 1921 Czech play that gave the world the word “robot” and the robot uprising meme. Robin Murphy, author of Robotics Through Science Fiction, Jeremy Brett, curator of one of the largest and most respected collections of science fiction in the world, and Joanne Pransky, the world’s first robotic psychiatrist who admittedly works more with industrialists than their equipment,  are excited about engaging the audience in a lively discussion about R.U.R.  The panel intends tackle questions such as: Why should we care about R.U.R. today? Is it a dated play that got lucky on creating memes or was it a hit like Hamilton which shaped popular opinion about policy? Is it relevant for today’s discussions on robots replacing workers, universal basic incomes, and responsible robotics innovation? The panel will be open for questions and discussion from the audience and likely to spawn a spirited chat session.

Joanna Pranksy

If you aren’t familiar with R.U.R., there’s a good synopsis by the wikipedia ( and the play can be found at  Project Gutenberg at Other fun reading is at The Czech Play that gave us the Word Robot,  The MIT Press Reader,

YouTube is full of many adaptations as well.


I’ll Take Robot Geeks for $1000, Alex: An Afternoon of Robot Trivia

Jason Millar

Join us for an afternoon of testing your knowledge of all things robot-related. Trivia-master Jason Millar will close our pre-conference workshop with some fun and good-natured competition. The Trivia session will be held at 4:15pm on Thursday, September 23rd at #werobot. Winner gets bragging rights until the next We Robot.

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Daniella DiPaola Will Answer Questions on Skills from Students – Artifacts from a Robot Interaction Design Curriculum for Fifth Grade Students

Daniella Dipaola

Daniella DiPaola will lead two live Demo Q&A sessions on Skills from Students – Artifacts from a Robot Interaction Design Curriculum for Fifth Grade Students at #werobot. The first session will be held at 3:15pm on Friday, September 24th; the second session will be held at 11:00am on Saturday, September 25th. We suggest viewing the recorded demo in advance of the Q&A.

Many applications of social robots have been created with children in mind. For example, we have used social robots to teach children new languages, help them be more creative, and develop a growth mindset. However, these applications are typically developed by professional designers and developers of robotic systems. In this demonstration, Daniella will share conversational skills that students in grades 4 and 5 created for the Jibo robotic platform. The students developed these skills while living with Jibo in their homes for two months during the Spring of 2021. Skills will consist of multi-turn dialogue and robot animations. The demonstration will center the ideas and thoughts of these students and provide insight into how children believe robot skills should be developed.

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Miles Brundage Will Answer Questions on the Societal Implications of Large Language Models

Miles Brundage

Miles Brundage will lead two live Demo Q&A sessions on Societal Implications of Large Language Models at #werobot. The first session will be held at 11:00am on Friday, September 24th; the second session will be held at 2:30pm on Saturday, September 25th. We suggest viewing the recorded demo in advance of the Q&A.

Large language models, which learn to process and produce language by consuming gigabytes of text, raise a number of societal risks and opportunities. Large language models have raised concerns about disinformation, bias, privacy, and more, and have been applied to applications ranging from search to question answering to entertainment. This demo will show the performance of GPT-3, a state of the art language model debuted last year by OpenAI, and is intended to spark a discussion about the legal and broader societal implications of such systems. In addition to showing the performance of the system interactively with conference participants, this demo might also feature commentary from the demonstrators on legal issues in which they have conducted research such as intellectual property, and possible legal interventions to mitigate some risks associated with language models, such as bot disclosure laws.

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Michelle Johnson Will Moderate the Health Robotics Panel

Michelle Johnson

Michelle Johnson is the moderator for the Field Robotics panel at 4:30pm on Saturday, September 25th at #werobot. The panel will feature the following papers:

Somebody That I Used to Know: The Risks of Personalizing Robots for Dementia Care by Alyssa KubotaMaryam Pourebadi, Sharon BanhSoyon Kim, and Laurel D. Riek

Diverse Patient Perspectives on the Role of AI and Big Data in Healthcare
Kelly BergstrandJess FindleyChristopher RobertsonMarv Slepian, and Andrew Woods

Prescribing Exploitation
Charlotte Tschider

Her research is centered in the area of robot-mediated rehabilitation. She is focused on the investigation and rehabilitation of dysfunction due to aging, neural disease, and neural injury. In particular, she is interested in 1) exploring the relationships between brain plasticity and behavioral/motor control changes after robot-assisted interventions; 2) quantifying motor impairment and motor control of the upper limb in real world tasks such as drinking; and 3) defining the methods to maintain therapeutic effectiveness while administering local and remote, robot-mediated interventions.

She directs the Rehabilitation Robotics Lab at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. This is a new Lab within the Department of Physical, Medicine, and Rehabilitation in the School of Medicine. The Rehabilitation Robotics Lab mission is to use robotics, rehabilitation, and neuroscience techniques to translate research findings into the development of assistive and therapeutic rehabilitation robots capable of functioning in real-world rehabilitation environments. Michelle and the Lab’s goal is to improve the quality of life and function on activities of daily living (ADLs) of their target population in supervised or under-supervised settings.

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Cynthia Khoo Will Lead Discussion of the Problems With Liability in Anti-Discrimination Systems

Cynthia Khoo

Cynthia Khoo will discuss Anti-Discrimination Law’s Cybernetic Black Hole at 3:00pm on Saturday, September 25th at #werobot.

Cynthia Khoo is a digital rights lawyer and founder of Tekhnos Law. She is also a full-time Associate at the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law Center, a Research Fellow at the Citizen Lab (Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto), and a member of the Board of Directors of Open Privacy Research Society.

She has extensive experience representing clients in proceedings before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), and has represented clients as interveners before the Supreme Court of Canada. She regularly researches and writes policy submissions to government consultations and advises on legal, policy, advocacy, and campaign strategies.

In April 2021, she completed a research grant by the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), resulting in the publication of the landmark report, Deplatforming Misogyny: Report on Platform Liability for Technology-Facilitated Gender-Based Violence. The report provides recommendations for legislative and other reforms, and will inform LEAF’s future litigation and legal reform strategy concerning technology-facilitate gender-based violence, abuse, and harassment (TFGBV).

Cynthia Khoo earned her J.D. from the University of Victoria and B.A. (Honours English) from the University of British Columbia. This included exchange semesters at Université Jean-Moulin Lyon III and the National University of Singapore, Faculty of Law (NUS Law). ShI also holds an LL.M. (Concentration in Law and Technology) from the University of Ottawa, where she specialized in online platform regulation and platform liability for harms to marginalized communities. Her paper based on this work was delivered at We Robot 2020, where she received the inaugural Ian R. Kerr Robotnik Memorial Award for the Best Paper by an Emerging Scholar.

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Meg Mitchell Will Lead Discussion on Understanding Consumer Contracts with Computational Language Models

Meg Mitchell

Meg Mitchell will discuss Predicting Consumer Contracts at 1:30pm on Saturday, September 25th at #werobot.

Meg Mitchell’s research primarily involves vision-language and grounded language generation, focusing on how to evolve artificial intelligence towards positive goals. This includes research on helping computers to communicate based on what they can process, as well as projects to create assistive and clinical technology from the state of the art in AI. Her work combines computer vision, natural language processing, social media, many statistical methods, and insights from cognitive science.

Before founding Ethical AI and co-founding ML Fairness at Google Research, she was a founding member of Microsoft Research’s “Cognition” group, focused on advancing artificial intelligence, and a researcher in Microsoft Research’s Natural Language Processing group.She was a postdoctoral researcher at The Johns Hopkins University Center of Excellence, where she focused on structured prediction, semantic role labeling, and sentiment analysis, working under Benjamin Van Durme. Before that, she was a postgraduate (PhD) student in the natural language generation (NLG) group at the University of Aberdeen, where she focused on how to naturally refer to visible, everyday objects. I primarily worked with Kees van Deemter and Ehud Reiter.

In 2008, she received a Master’s in Computational Linguistics at the University of Washington, studying under Emily Bender and Fei Xia. From 2005 to 2012, she worked on and off at the Center for Spoken Language Understanding, part of OHSU, in Portland, Oregon. She worked on technology that leverages syntactic and phonetic characteristics to aid those with neurological disorders.

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Madeleine Clare Elish Will Lead Discussion on the Political Implications of Autonomous Vehicles

Madeleine Clare Elish

Madeleine Clare Elish will discuss Autonomous Vehicle Fleets as Public Infrastructure at 11:30am on Saturday, September 25th at #werobot.

Madeleine Clare Elish previously led the AI on the Ground Initiative at Data & Society, where she and her team investigated the promises and risks of integrating AI technologies into society. Through human-centered and ethnographic research, AI on the Ground sheds light on the consequences of deploying AI systems beyond the research lab, examining who benefits, who is harmed, and who is accountable. The initiative’s work has focused on how organizations grapple with the challenges and opportunities of AI, from changing work practices and responsibilities to new ethics practices and forms of AI governance.

As a researcher and anthropologist, Madeleine has worked to reframe debates about the ethical design, use, and governance of AI systems. She has conducted field work across varied industries and communities, ranging from the Air Force, the driverless car industry, and commercial aviation to precision agriculture and emergency healthcare. Her research has been published and cited in scholarly journals as well as publications including The New York Times, Slate, The Guardian, Vice, and USA Today. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University and an S.M. in Comparative Media Studies from MIT.

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