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ICC Kyoto: Was it difficult having participants take antigen tests for COVID-19 as part of registration?

Dr. Ma: We decided to hold the conference in-person in late July, but in August Japan had its seventh wave of COVID-19 and there was a sudden increase in cases, so we set up a Stop COVID-Spread Countermeasure Committee. One of the hardest decisions we made was to have all participants take PCR or antigen tests as part of our countermeasures against COVID-19, though there were many people on the organizing committee who were against it.
It took a lot of time and effort on the part of the Stop COVID-Spread Countermeasure Committee, but all participants and staff had to upload proof of a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 3 days of coming to the conference, and then show the authorization from the committee at the entrance. Anybody who was not able to upload a negative result was given an antigen test at the entrance to take right there.
Thanks to everybody’s cooperation, I am very happy to say that we did not have a single COVID-19 case during the conference.

Dr. Shugen Ma, IROS 2022 General Chair /
Professor, Ritsumeikan University Department of Robotics

ICC Kyoto: Did the number of on-site participants increase when they eased the border restrictions in October?

Dr. Ma: They announced the change just before the conference, so there was an increase about 400 – 500 people.

ICC Kyoto: What were some benefits of holding an in-person conference?

Dr. Ma: For an online meeting, you can hold discussions and ask questions to the speakers, but it’s very hard to have any deeper exchange than that. On the other hand, at the in-person conference, participants could not only ask the speakers questions directly after the presentation, but also interact with other researchers after the sessions ended, which led to a great experience and opportunity for students and researchers. I am very glad that we were able to hold the conference in person.

ICC Kyoto: Do you have a message for the world from IROS 2022?

Dr. Ma: This year’s in-person conference was a great success. What’s important is not only that it ended well, but also to ensure the conference can continue long into the future. For that, I think it is important to help young researchers develop their skills and use them
to give back to society.