Update concerning COVID-19: Due to the pandemic and the uncertainty regarding travel to the US, RSS 2020 and associated workshops will take place VIRTUALLY during the original dates (July 12-16). The deadline for abstract submission has been extended to 30th April, 2020. 

Today most robots successfully deployed in the field are built to avoid contacts. When they have to make or break contact, they have to slow down considerably to minimize impacts and avoid damaging their structure or the world. As we start deploying robots in contact-rich environments, this strategy may not be productive. Robots will have to deal with contacts at speed. Over the years, ways to react to these unexpected external stimuli have been proposed through innovations in sensing, actuation, and control. This continues to be an active area of research.

Increasing the transparency of a system can improve its ability to react to contact. The term transparency is borrowed from teleoperation research, where it means that the operator feels as if directly present in the task. The key is effective transmission of information carried by force and velocity signals through the robot’s structure. Adding mechanical compliance, for example, improves the one-way transparency of the system (i.e. transfer of end effector forces to your controller.)

Ideas of transparency in robots have been an ongoing conversation since the 1980’s. The direct-drive arms designed by Takeo Kanade and Harry Asada (1989) were ahead of their time and exploited the highly transparent drive train of the custom designed manipulators for speed and accuracy. Industry saw immense potential in the technology and soon had launched direct drive robots for high-speed fine-positioning tasks such as circuit board assembly. The haptics and teleoperation community also explored these ideas independently, most notably, Hollis’ 6DOF magic wrist and the Phantom haptics interface. The lack of torque density in direct-drive transmissions prevented their penetration into mainstream applications. Mechanical compliance became popular as a trick to achieve one-way transparency while maintaining torque density.

Recent advances in motor technology have triggered a review of bidirectional transparency. The MIT Cheetah, Ghost Robotics Minitaur, and Agility Robotics Cassie are all examples of successful robots that have maximized transparency without compromising their torque specifications.

Through this workshop we wish to answer one question: How can we make robots more transparent to contacts? In the process we intend to explore the key developments that allow robots to be reactive to contacts in the field of robotic manipulation, locomotion and physical human robot interaction and orthogonal to this, the space of sensors, actuators, controllers.



The invited talks will be organized in 4 sessions with two invited talks in each section:

  • Transparency in Teleoperation, Haptics and pHRI

  • Managing Impacts in Locomotion

  • Transparent Sensing and Actuation in Manipulation

  • Detecting and reacting to contact through intelligent control

Each invited talk will be 30 minutes long with a 5-minute discussion following the talk. For each session, the organizers will designate session chairs to moderate the talks and facilitate discussion. The time between speakers will be used for setting up the next speaker, discussion of the presented talk and any questions/comments from the session chair or audience.

The contributed lightening talks will follow a format similar to the main conference with short 4-minute timed video presentations with 1 minute for questions following the lightening talk. This will allow time for up to 6 contributed talks. The workshop will require the submission of an extended abstract prior to acceptance to maintain the quality of the contributed talks.

All the invited and contributed talks will be videotaped (with presenter consent) and uploaded to the workshop website.


Invited Speakers

  • Avik De - Ghost Robotics & Harvard University
  • Sangbae Kim - MIT
  • Jonathan Hurst - Agility Robotics & Oregon State University
  • Hannah Stuart - UC Berkeley
  • Naomi Fitter - Oregon State University
  • Sami Haddadin - TU Munich
  • Aaron Dollar - Yale University
  • James Klassen - Genesis Robotics
Confirmed speakers in bold, others are invited.

Workshop Venue

Oregon State University,
Corvallis, Oregon.


Important Dates

April 30 Abstract Submission Deadline
May 15 Abstract Acceptance Notification
July 5 Lightening Talks Due
July 12 Workshop







Ankit Bhatia
PhD Student, Manipulation Lab, 
Robotics Institute,
Carnegie Mellon University

Aaron M. Johnson
Assistant Professor,
Robomechanics Lab,
Mechanical Engineering,
Carnegie Mellon University

Matthew T. Mason
Professor, Manipulation Lab, 
Robotics Institute,
Carnegie Mellon University