International Workshop of Intelligent Autonomous Learning Systems

The International Workshop on Intelligent Autonomous Learning Systems is an annual, invitation-only event centered on advancements in machine learning for robotics and autonomous systems. Its primary objectives include fostering collaboration, encouraging scientific discussions, and enhancing participants' comprehension. Traditionally hosted in the picturesque Kleinwalsertal, Austria, amidst the stunning Alps.

International Workshop of Intelligent Autonomous Learning Systems 2023

Note, Please ensure to read the conference schedule and specific activity requirements before packing for the event.

Quick Facts

Organizers:Kai Ploeger, Kay Hansel, Ali Younes, Snehal Jauhri
Location:Darmstädter Haus and Sporthotel Walliser, Kleinwalsertal, Austria
Dates:13.08.- 20.08.2023


Note, the schedule is subject to change, to optimize the weather during outdoor activites.

Daily Schedule

14/8Monday:Opening session, N&R speed dating, Spotlight #1, Poster session
15/8Tuesday:Spotlight #2, Contributed Talks (partly parallel)
16/8Wednesday:Excursion (Hike or Klettersteig)
17/8Thursday:Spotlight #3-#4, Focus Group
18/8Friday:Focus Group, Group-specific session
19/8Saturday:Career Seminar, Grant planning & proposal writing, Closing session
20/8Sunday:Travel back

Detailed Schedule

Note, there will be 30 minute coffee breaks each morning and afternoon, between sessions.

09 - 10Opening SessionSpotlight #2ExcursionSpotlight #3Focus GroupCareer Seminar: Layer 1 and 2
10 - 11N&R Speed DatingSpotlight #2ExcursionSpotlight #3-#4Focus GroupCareer Seminar: Layer 3
11 - 12N&R Speed DatingSpotlight #2ExcursionSpotlight #4Focus GroupCareer Seminar - Fill this form during Layer 3 when Jan asks you to!
12 - 14LunchLunchExcursionLunchLunchLunch
14 - 15Spotlight #1Contributed TalksExcursionFocus GroupGroup Specific SessionIntroduction to Grant Planning & Proposal Writing by Martins Zaumanis. Great book: Buy here! Useful Materials: 1 2 3
15 - 16Spotlight #1Contributed TalksExcursionFocus GroupGroup Specific SessionPractical Grant Planning & Proposal Writing (Jan)
16 - 17Spotlight #1Contributed TalksExcursionFocus GroupGroup Specific SessionClosing Session
17 - 18Poster SessionContributed TalksExcursionFocus GroupGroup Specific Session

Invited Speakers

Nathan Lepora is a professor of Robotics and AI leading the Dexterous Robotics group at Bristol Robotics Laboratory. With a diverse academic background spanning mathematics, theoretical physics, and computational neuroscience, Nathan's research focuses on natural, artificial, and embodied intelligence in robotics and neuroscience, particularly in perception, learning, interaction, understanding, and manipulation of surroundings. Renowned for his work on robot touch and biomimetic forebrain, his research has garnered media coverage and prestigious awards, including the Leverhulme Trust Research Leadership Award. With valuable expertise in the interface of computational neuroscience, AI, and robotics, Nathan collaborates with industry leaders such as Ultraleap, Ocado Technology, Google DeepMind, and Shadow Robotics.

Jia-Jie Zhu is a research group leader at the Weierstrass Institute for Applied Analysis and Stochastics (WIAS) in Berlin. With a strong academic background, J.J. previously served as a postdoctoral researcher in machine learning at the prestigious Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen, Germany, and completed his Ph.D. in numerical optimization at the University of Florida. His expertise spans state-of-the-art machine learning, optimization, and large-scale computation, with a specific focus on algorithm development and theoretical exploration. Notably, he and his team have made significant contributions to the field, particularly in robustness theory for machine learning, utilizing computational tools such as optimization algorithms over probability distributions. Their research also delves into the fascinating intersection of large-scale computational algorithms in machine learning/optimization and dynamical systems theory, including (PDE) gradient flows and optimal transport.

Martins Zaumanis has written a book series called Peer Recognized on practical advice for writing impactful research papers, delivering powerful academic presentations, attracting research funding and making your name known on the internet. He will present an overview from his book Write a Winning Research Proposal. In his day job, he is a road pavement scientist at Empa. In his research, he strives to bring sustainability to the core of road construction! To reach this goal, he spends his days studying asphalt recycling, the use of waste materials in road construction and application warm mix asphalt technologies. In 2016, he received the International Road Federation award for the best research project of the year.


Spotlight Talks

The spotlight talks are tutorial sessions led by field experts, providing a clear and informative introduction to a specific research field. These talks aim to acquaint the audience with essential concepts, recent developments, and significant findings in that area of study.

14:00 - 17:00
#1Touch sensing and Processing in RoboticsNathan Lepora (University of Bristol),
Roberto Calandra (TU Dresden)
09:00 - 12:00
#2Optimization and dynamics: from Euclidean gradient descent to Wasserstein gradient flowJ. J. Zhu (WIASS, Berlin)
09:00 - 10:30
#3Hierarchical Reinforcement LearningHerke van Hoof (University of Amsterdam)
10:45 - 12:15
#4Generative Models for Optimization and PlanningJulen Urain (TU Darmstadt)

Contributed Talks

During this session, researchers from different labs present their research, providing insights, methodologies, and findings on specific topics or projects while also receiving feedback from the audience.

Note, there will be two talks in parallel, denoted #1 and #2.

14:00 - 14:30A1Interactive Learning and Generalization of Dynamical Motor PrimitivesRavi Prakash (CoR, TU Delft)
 A2Leveraging Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning and Graph Neural Networks for Distributed Traffic-Aware Routing OptimizationAndreas Boltres (ALR, KIT)
14:35 - 15:05B1Diffusion for Goal Conditioned Imitation LearningMoritz Reuss (IRL, KIT)
 B2Neural Networks as Sparse Gaussian Processes for Sequential LearningAidan Scannell (RL Lab, Aalto)
15:10 - 15:40C1Coherent Soft Imitation LearningJoe Watson (IAS, TU Da)
 C2Simplified Temporal Consistency Reinforcement LearningYi Zhao (RL Lab, Aalto)
15:45 - 16:15D1Search-based Task and Motion PlanningZlatan Ajanovic (CoR, TU Delft)
 D2Reinforcement Learning in Quadruped Robots: Tackling Varied ScenariosQingfeng Yao (RL Lab, Aalto)
16:20 - 16:50E1A Time-Continuous Option FrameworkSamuele Tosatto (IIS, UIBK)
 E2Multi Time Scale World ModelsVaisakh Shaj Kumar (ALR, KIT)
16:55 - 17:25F1Learning Latent Action Representations in Space and Time from DemonstrationsMichael Przystupa (Vision Robotics, UofA)
 F2Imitation Learning for Bimanual Insertion Tasks in MujocoMichael Drolet (IAS, TU Da)
17:30 - 18:00G1Slurm-tastic Adventures on a Cluster: A Roboticist Guide to Dominating the Cluster with Slurm and DockerDaniel Palenicek (IAS, TU Da),
Pascal Klink(IAS, TU Da)
 G2EAGERx: Graph-Based Framework for Sim2real Robot LearningJelle Luijkx (CoR, TU Delft)

Focus Groups

The aim of the focus groups is to expand participants' knowledge by delving into robotics and machine learning topics that are interesting and related but outside their primary research area. Each participant will have the opportunity to gain new insights, collaborate with peers, and spark innovative ideas. In the end, the groups will present their findings through presentations, fostering further discussion among all participants. Open to all. Chair: Ali Younes, Kay Hansel, Kai Ploeger, Snehal Jauhri

Career Seminar

The career seminar facilitates the exchange of experiences and expertise between junior and senior researchers. The seminar culminates with a Q&A session with the PIs, providing an opportunity for participants to seek specific guidance. Its overarching goal is to equip junior researchers with insights and experiences to advance their careers effectively. Open to all. Chair: Jan Peters

Grant Planing & Proposal Writing

Grant planning and proposal writing are crucial in academia as they enable researchers to secure funding for their projects, support their research efforts and expand their scientific knowledge. This seminar will specifically focus on teaching junior researchers how to plan grants and write proposals. Additionally, experiences and expertise will be exchanged between the research groups. Open to all. Chair: Jan Peters

Network and Research (N&R) speed dating

To form new collaborations, participants will be organized into small groups, intentionally aiming to have a diverse and heterogeneous mix of researchers from different labs. Within these groups, pairs of participants will engage in five-minute chats, allowing them to get to know each other. Open to all. Chair: Kay Hansel, Kai Ploeger

Poster Session

Poster session to present research, exchange ideas and get to know each other. The poster session starts before dinner and continues throughout the evening. Open to all. Chair: Kay Hansel, Kai Ploeger

Group-Specific Session

Each group is free to have its own meeting to discuss various internal matters or use these slots freely. Chair: Kay Hansel, Kai Ploeger

Travel Arrangements

Please contact Snehal Jauhri for travel advice.


It is highly recommended to bring with you:

  • Your Laptop: Please bring your laptop as it will be needed during certain sessions
  • Hiking Boots: Since we'll be going for a hike or klettersteig, a sturdy pair of hiking boots is essential. Consider choosing ones that have:
-A proper sole to prevent slipping on wet rocks.
-Ankle support to protect you from twisting.
-Waterproof features to allow you to traverse through mud or small rivers.
-If you do not wear hiking boots, we will not take you to the Klettersteig!
  • Small Backpack (20 - 30l): A convenient backpack will come in handy for carrying your essentials.
  • Refillable Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is vital, so don't forget to bring a refillable water bottle.
  • Small Lunch Box: We'll provide a breakfast buffet, and you can pack your lunch in a small box to keep your energy up during the event.
  • Shades and Hat: The sun can be intense, so pack sunglasses and a hat to shield yourself.
  • Sunscreen: To protect your skin from the mountain sun, remember to pack sunscreen.
  • Rain Jacket: While we hope for clear skies, it's best to be prepared. Bring a lightweight rain jacket just in case.
  • Comfortable Clothes: Expect to get a bit wet and dirty during our mountain adventures, so comfortable and durable clothes are recommended.
  • Swimming Suit: There's a possibility of visiting thermal springs or a sauna, so pack a swimming suit if you'd like to take a refreshing dip.

The International Workshop on Intelligent Autonomous Learning Systems is a yearly by-invitation-only workshop on developments within machine learning for robotics and other autonomous systems. The focus lies on fundamental scientific and organizational discussions. The workshop typically takes place in Kleinwalsertal (Austria), a nice location surrounded by the beautiful Alps.

International Workshop of Intelligent Autonomous Learning Systems 2022

Quick Facts

Organizers:Joao Carvalho, Pascal Klink, Joe Watson
Location:Darmstädter Haus, Kleinwalsertal, Austria
Dates:14.08.- 21.08.2022


Note, the schedule is subject to change, to optimize the weather during outdoor activites.

Daily Schedule

15/8Monday:Introductions, Tutorial #1, Networking
16/8Tuesday:Talk #1, Tutorial #2
17/8Wednesday:Talk #2, Group Discussions
18/8Thursday:Hike, Tutorial #3
19/8Friday:Group discussions, Hackathon
20/8Saturday:Discussions / Swimming pool, Sauna
21/8Sunday:Travel back

Detailed Schedule

Note, there will be 30 minute coffee breaks each morning and afternoon, between sessions.

09 - 10IntroductionHikeOpen-source Reinforcement LearningA Robotic Platform for Air HockeyGeri Neumann (ALR, KIT)
10 - 11Network Speed DatingHikeInformation-Theoretic Sensorimotor Behaviour IInformation-Theoretic Sensorimotor Behaviour IILatent Predictive World Models
11 - 12WIAWIWTBHikeInformation-Theoretic Sensorimotor Behaviour IInformation-Theoretic Sensorimotor Behaviour IILatent Predictive World Models
12 - 13LunchHikeLunchLunchLunch
13 - 14WIAWIWTBHike(IAS) Ops, DevOps & IT DiscussionML for Drug DiscoveryJoni Pajarinen (Aalto)
14 - 15WIAWIWTBHike(IAS) Feedback DiscussionResearch Speed DatingImpactful Research Workshop
15 - 16WIAWIWTBHike (IAS) Teaching Review(IAS) Research Review
16 - 17 Hike(IAS) 360° Feedback (IAS) Research Review

Invited Tutorials

Information-Theoretic Treatment of the Perception-Action Loop

Daniel Polani is a professor of Artificial Intelligence and Director of the Centre for Computer Science and Informatics Research (CCSIR), and Head of the Adaptive Systems Research Group, and leader of the SEPIA (Sensor Evolution, Processing, Information and Actuation) Lab at the University of Hertfordshire. Daniel Polani received the Doctor of Natural Sciences degree from the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Mainz, Mainz, Germany, in 1996.,From 1996 to 2000, he was a Research Assistant with the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Mainz. In 1997, he was a Visiting Researcher with the Neural Networks Research Group, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA. From 2000 to 2002, he was a Research Fellow with the Institute for Neuro- and Bioinformatics, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany. From 2002 to 2008, he was a Principal Lecturer with the Adaptive Systems and Algorithms Research Groups, School of Computer Science, University of Hertfordshire (UH), Hatfield, U.K. Since 2008, he has been a Reader in Artificial Life and Member of the Adaptive Systems and Algorithms Research Groups, School of Computer Science, UH. His research interests include the foundations of intelligent behavior in biological as well as artificial agents, especially in terms of informational optimality principles.

A Unified Framework for Developing Curiosity-driven Agents in Hard-Exploration Tasks using Latent-Predictive World-models. (Remote)

Mohammad Gheshlaghi Azar is a research scientist at DeepMind woking on broad range of topics from deep reinforcement learning to self-supervised learning. His main passion is to gain better understanding of the concept of intelligence by looking deeper on its governing mathematical principles.

Contributed Talks

Machine Learning for Drug Discovery

Alexander I. Cowen-Rivers is a PhD student in the Intelligent Autonomous Systems group and Research Scientist at Huawei Research London, working on Reinforcement Learning and Bayesian Optimisation. Alexander joined the lab in November 2019 after receiving his MSc in Machine Learning & Data Science from University College London in October 2018.

A Robotic Platform for Air Hockey

Puze Liu is a PhD student in the Intelligent Autonomous Systems group. His research interests include robotics, reinforcement learning, inverse reinforcement learning, and human-robot collaboration. Puze is looking for new approaches for robots to learn collaborative tasks that enable robots assisting humans in different scenarios.

Open-source Reinforcement Learning

Davide Tateo is a postdoctoral researcher in the Intelligent Autonomous Systems group working on Robotics and Reinforcement Learning.

Workshop Activities

WIAWIWTB (Where I Am & Where I Want To Be)

A series of brief 3 minute lightning talks summarizing your research career so far and future aspirations for all retreat participlants. Talks are up to three minutes long, with two minutes allocated per speaker for discussion. Chair: Joe Watson

Impactful Research Workshop

What makes impactful research? How should we choose problems to work on? This workshop aims to develop strategies for finding the good research questions and classifying dead ends, and discuss the current open questions in Robot Learning. Chair: Joe Watson

Network and Research Speed Dating

Rapid three minutes chats to get to know each other, and establish potential research collaborations. Open to all. Chair: Joe Watson

IAS Workshops

IAS-only meetings to discuss various internal matters. Other participants are free to have their own meetings or use these slots freely. Chairs: Joe Watson and Joao Carvalho

Tooling Tutorials

Contributed workshops looking at a specific problems or software libraries. Chairs: Boris Belousov (Isaac Gym), Daniel Palenicek (JAX) and Joe Watson (RevealJS)

Travel Arrangements

Please contact Pascal Klink for travel advice.