The IEEE/RSJ IROS conference recently took place in Vancouver and it was the biggest, and one of the best, meetings in this series of conferences to ever take place. It was also the 30th anniversary of this series of international meetings.
As usual, there were a couple of days of workshops and meetings, and three main days of technical sessions with close to 1000 original research papers being presented.
With ICRA coming to Montreal in 2019 I am paying particular attention to how other robotics meetings are being organized and what the venues are like. I must say that Vancouver really raised the bar to a frightening level (for future organizers) with a beautiful location, an excellent conference banquet, and a generally well-organized meeting overall.
Of course, learning is a key to much of robotics these days. Learning was one of the top keywords associated with published papers this year. Of the five papers from our lab, all five were about the interaction on learning and robotics (one of the papers was actually at ROSCon which preceded IROS).
Although I could only see a small fraction of the talks myself, I got to see some of what the community thought were the best papers by virtue of being on the awards committee. Robot design make something of a resurgence exemplified by the best paper award going to a paper on the design and analysis of the jumping robot Salto-1P (by Haldane, Yim and Fearing). Human robot interaction continues to be a hot topic, a trend I expect to see continue for many years to come. Maja Matric gave a great plenary on her work in this important domain and urged the attendees to focus more deeply on getting robotics to people with profound needs. Among other favorite talks was the plenary by Dieter Fox and a keynote from Oliver Brock, both exceptionally creative and thoughtful souls, and also exceptional speakers -- also great dinner companions and we went out for the best sushi I've had since Tokyo. This was at Sushi Bar Maumi on Bute St. It only seats a total 11 people in groups no larger than 4, and you get to watch the Sushi being prepared at the bar in traditional Japanese style.