Back in May, I wrote about the first Robotics Virtual Conference held by online robotics media firm RoboticsTrends. The idea is simple – instead of travelling to attend a physical trade show, you can attend online via a web-based interface. The result is not so simple. Vendors struggle to figure out how to present information on their physical robot product in a virtual world, which results in just a mess of file downloads. I think I downloaded 40 or so files (pdfs, whitepapers, and videos) from the exhibitors, but only found the time and energy to go through a dozen or so. The “booths” are attended by one or more employees, almost like a chat room, so you can get some actual conversation in. So you’re talking one-on-one with someone (who’s probably talking to other people at the same time). At a real show, a lot of people tend to mill around and listen in on other conversations, either they don’t know what to ask or don’t want to intrude on a potential sale. So the experience is pretty different. For a first-time event though, I have to cut them some slack. There were very few technical issues, hopefully they’ll have them cleaned up.
That previous conference, held in June, was titled “Autonomy, Navigation, & Mobility Solutions” and since just days earlier, Adept Technology announced the acquisition of Mobile Robots Inc I was keen to gain some exposure to the mobile solutions world. This time, the theme is “New Applications For Industrial Robots” and includes a higher concentration of “traditional” robots and sessions, although there are a few standouts to shake things up a bit. There are keynote presentations from ABB, Adept Technology, and Hartness (a FANUC house) about the viability and increasing proliferation of robotic solutions. Other sessions seem to have two tracks, Material Handling Applications and Factory Automation Solutions, and there are some interesting ones in each. I’m looking forward to hearing from Kiva Systems on their warehouse robot solutions, as well as a talk from Barrett Technologies on human-robot workspace sharing. They’re at the same time, but this is one area where the Virtual format actually wins – the presentations are published online, so you can watch them after the designated time.
One thing that makes this one kind of weird – I’ll actually be in Chicago as part of the setup crew for the Adept booth at PackExpo. So I’ll be attending a virtual trade show while on the road for a “real” trade show (not to diminish the virtual event, but given the number of hours that have gone into the demo we’re showing, it just feels more real to me!)
If you’re in Chicago, stop by the Adept booth, we’ve got a fantastic demo this year – the Adept PAC cell with Adept Quattro robots, plus some mobile robots integrated in with the demo and driving around giving away mints. That’s something you don’t get at a virtual conference – mints…or the bad breath that requires them J