It may be due to the weak world economy, the impact of the triple disasters that hit Japan earlier this year (earthquake, tsunami, nuclear), or it could be a sign of waning business interest in robotics in general, but whatever the reason, the official attendance figures for the ROBOTECH 2011 exhibition held earlier this month are lower than we expected and hoped.
The grand total, over the exhibition's three day run was 12,861 people. Considering that a significant part of that number must have consisted of employees and customers of companies and organizations that were exhibiting, along with members of the press and mass media, the exhibition didn't seem to have general appeal. It certainly didn't attract the crowds drawn to other major shows or robot events.
Keep in mind that ROBOTECH 2011 was only one of the four events that shared the same venue and the same entrance process. In addition to ROBOTECH, the MicroMachine/MEMS and SURTECH 2011 shows were taking place. It's impossible from the reported figures to segregate the attendees and know which of the three events compelled them to attend. And, it's doubtful than any of the events by itself would pull a large enough audience to be viable at that centrally located venue.
Hopefully the same factor, what ever the real cause, won't impact attendance at the International Robot Exhibition 2011 (IREX) set for early November at the same venue. IREX has been the world's largest, and most interesting robot exhibition, and is usually packed with exhibitors and visitors. The most recent IREX, held in 2009, was slightly smaller, both in terms of exhibitors and attendance, than past events. We had hoped that the downturn was only temporary and related to the 2008 economic shock. This year's show will provide a clear indication of the mood towards investment and growth in the robotics business going forward.