Sunday Musings

Robotics Trade Shows: Build Once, Use Forever!

Robots Ahoy! How About Trade Shows Aboard Aircraft Carriers?


So, your boss dropped a bundle sending you and two colleagues to Vegas for the Big Show.

Up at dawn for an early flight, cramped for hours on the plane, then a pricey cab from McCarran, and finally, into a very so-so room at the Venetian. …You’re already exhausted.

Your face may want takeout from Subway, but your head is angling for a pillow. It’s going to be an early rise tomorrow just to spend the day on a massive expo floor where only Dante can show you the way to the exit.

Gets you to musing: Is there a better way?

Ever felt this way?
Don’t know about you, but I always feel bad for the event crew building out monstrous trade show exhibits for robotics or automation, only to tear them down three days later. Seems like such a gigantic waste of manpower, time, and money.

The crews are highly skilled and toss around well-deserved high-fives when the monster exhibit is up and running and looking amazing. Then the clock starts ticking out the allotted two to three days before the crews need to return to strike the set.

And it’s not a cheap endeavor. Some trade show exhibits cost tens of thousands of dollars to erect, strike, pack up, and then to ship off somewhere else…only to repeat the same expensive process over and over and over again.

Then too, there’s the human toll on attendees like me. After attending three or four trade shows, they all begin to look the same. By the third show, my feet are barking at me to stay away from the endless aisles with booths and carpet as far as the eye can see. And, of course, there are always multiple floors to visit that look numbingly identical. Almost magically, my plastic event bag gets stuffed to the brim with pamphlets, catalogs, flyers, and meaningless tchotchkes. Yikes! Where’s my hotel room for a shower and a cold beer?

Maybe that brands me as a trade show sissy. But hey, wouldn’t everyone love an alternative?


Isn’t there a better way to enjoy robotics events?
Brazil is selling an aircraft carrier for $1.2 million (pictured above, and since scuttled in 2023). I know and agree that the price sounds more than a bit sketchy, but the idea of a private owner for a former aircraft carrier is nonetheless intriguing.

It got me to thinking that maybe trade shows need new, creative venues to pump a bit of excitement into them. Previously, we’ve written about robotics having it’s own TV network, the Automation/Robotics Network, like the Travel Network, Food Channel, or HGTV. Check it out when you have time: Should Robotics Events Have an Exclusive Online TV Network? 


Mike Kushner on Hybrid Live and Virtual
Trade Shows


Crazily, trade shows haven’t changed since 1851’s Great Exhibition, when Queen Victoria rolled out 100,000 exhibits and 6 million people dropped by the Crystal Place for a look-see.

Are trade shows primed for disruption? Maybe you agree?

A trade show permanently staged on an aircraft carrier, or even a smaller helicopter flattop, presents some interesting possibilities. Worldwide, there are over 60 mothballed carriers, or worse, many are headed out of mothballs for the scrap yard like the Kitty Hawk that the U.S. sold for scrap, for one cent.

First off, a trade show aboard an aircraft carrier switches up the traditional trade show-audience dynamic: instead of attendees traveling to the tradeshow, the trade show could go to them, or at least dock in major port cities having large populations. Ports on large rivers would also work well.

Salt air as a health aid
Maybe a fresh sea breeze could put some snap into the same-old feel of every trade show: drudgery in the name of business.

The engines, fuel tanks, massive propellers, and munitions bays wouldn’t be needed; the craft would be towed by tugs from port to port…and when in port may even hang out for a week or more.

Imagine the aircraft carrier as a massive DisneyWorld for commerce and industry where you actually become a participant in all the activities onboard.

Then come the “what ifs”
What if an exhibitor was offered year-long space as a participant in an onboard smart factory or warehouse of the future? A factory that actually manufactured real products and a warehouse that actually fulfilled orders. Maybe digital twins monitoring real operations.

What if an onboard TV production crew produced feature stories, daily news, mini-documentaries, and business programming streamed globally?

What if attendees could stroll an entire flight deck turned into a drone airport for all types and sizes of drones?

What if attendees could access part of the flight deck partitioned for automated surface vessels, while the stern was home to automated submersibles?

What if service robots and humanoid robots were aboard?

What if there were sleeping quarters for employees as well as student interns?

What if there were classrooms for meetings, lectures, and teaching?

The “what if” possibilities are endless.

And everything is permanent (ready for upgrades or to be switched out for more advanced automation, robots, or 3D printers)

Think, a traveling DisneyWorld only for commerce and industry tugged around the world from port to port, accessible physically by millions, and millions more digitally via VR…with all of it streamed live 24/7 and memorialized via news and educational TV programming.

Hey, sign me up!