Robotics Competitions

There is significant overlap between robotics competitions and machine learning competitions. In general, the involvement of physical hardware in robotics competitions brings extra challenges for competition organisers and participants.

Our blog post on Robotics Competitions at ICRA 2023 took a detailed look at 12 recent robotics competitions at a top conference. In this post we summarise some themes from these competitions, and robotics competitions in general.


Firstly, why should robotics competitions happen at all? Organising a competition often involves an enormous amount of work, as does participating.

From the competition organisers’ perspectives, there are numerous good reasons:

Participants, also, benefit from competing in various ways:

Types of Competitions

There is no one template for robotics competitions, but there are a few common ways to run them. We’ve categorised them into the following buckets:

Additionally, while most competitions have weeks or months of asynchronous preparation followed by a few days of evaluation, some follow a hackathon format — a few days of intense synchronous work during the competition event.

Choosing the right way to run a particular competition is critical.

For example, simulation-based competitions have the lowest barrier to entry, and are great when the number of participants or diversity of solutions is more important than the real-world fidelity of the solutions.

For competitions requiring lots of expensive and hard-to-transport hardware, a remote approach is likely to work best — unless the challenging in-person environment is core to the challenge, and teams are willing to make the investment to compete in-person.

On remote evaluation — while centralised remote evaluation is better for direct comparison and ensuring a level playing field, competitions involving highly custom hardware are likely to be better suited to distributed remote evaluation (see the cloth manipulation challenge for more discussion on this).

Key Events

We list ongoing robotics competitions on our competition listing page.

These are some regular events that host interesting robotics competitions:

About ML Contests

For over three years now, ML Contests has provided a competition directory and shared insights on trends in the competitive machine learning and robotics space. To receive occasional updates with key insights like this conference summary, subscribe to our mailing list. You can also follow us on Twitter, or join our Discord community.