Surprise! Robots are much more popular than expected!
Robots on Tour started off on Friday 8 March 2013 with a scientific symposium at café/bar Sphères in Zurich, Switzerland. Big names from the robotic community shared and discussed their research with the audience. The venue was packed, and many people sat on the floor as there weren’t enough chairs.
Just across the street, at the cool Puls 5 venue, 50 classes of youth (aged 13-17) and their teachers took guided tours of the robot exhibition, where they had the chance to directly interact with the robots and their constructors. Of particular interest were the soccer-playing and flying robots.
In the afternoon, after the school groups had left, Dean of the University of Zurich Andreas Fischer welcomed guests to the AI Lab‘s birthday party event, which featured presentations by Rodney Brooks, Rolf Pfeifer, former and current members of the AI Lab, and others. Roboy also had his public debut as an actor in the theater play “To be, or not to be humanoid” by 1visible Productions. And of course, the team that worked so hard to make Robots on Tour possible were thanked for their fantastic work.
Organizers of Robots on Tour were initially skeptical of whether a robot exhibition would attract enough people, and were taken by surprise when on Saturday morning at 09:00 the doors opened to a massive number of visitors waiting to enter! It took only a few minutes to fill the exhibition venue …
… and admittance had to be temporarily halted for safety reasons. Soon, a long queue formed in front of the building …
… which, understandably, wasn’t much appreciated by all those who had to wait outside for two hours despite having bought a ticket ahead of time. Fortunately some of the robots went outside to entertain the the people standing in line, and drinks and chocolates were served. By early afternoon the line up was almost gone.
Despite the long wait, feedback from both exhibitors and the approximate 4000 visitors was very positive: many asked for the event to be extended, for it to return next year (perhaps in another city), and some even asked for the red Robots on Tour T-shirt. If there is enough interest, we might actually sell some.
Over 40 state-of-the-art robots from the US, Europe, and Asia were on display — or rather, interacting with visitors — at the event. The University of Zürich’s AI lab (which initiated Robots on Tour to celebrate its 25th anniversary) had a cool lounge area designed by Live your balcony featuring its own robots, a timeline poster created by Valerie Bugmann, movies from and about the AI Lab, and of course people explaining their research to the visitors.
Robots on Tour ended with the Swiss Artists-in-Labs event and a screening of the European premiere of the movie archipelago.ch by Adrianne Wortzel and Daniel Bisig. Afterwards the exhibitors started packing their robots so that they could be shipped back to all corners of the world.
On Sunday morning the exhibition was already empty, with nothing to remind occasional passers-by of the huge crowd of people that filled Puls 5 the day before… and the robots were patiently waiting for their journey home in their cargo boxes …