Captivating Trade Show Attendees


DARPA logo

The Project

DARPA’s System Security Integration Through Hardware and Firmware (SSITH) is a groundbreaking project designed to protect electronic systems by addressing underlying hardware vulnerabilities, rather than relying on software patches.

The Challenge

A clear and engaging exhibit that simplifies a complex idea, draws visitors in, lets them feel the technology’s effects, and helps them understand its mechanics.

The Solution

A Car-Driving Simulator

The answer to the challenge was an exciting car-driving simulator. This hands-on experience exposed attendees to an existential security threat by remotely controlling the throttle, brakes and steering. The interactive exhibit allowed even those with limited technical knowledge to grasp the benefits of SSITH.

Designing the SSITH Exhibit

A series of concept drawings visualized the exhibit. These illustrations depicted SSITH as the driver’s protector, with the driver completing the mission and the hacker acting as the antagonist. The story emphasized the importance of SSITH in protecting electronic systems from security threats. By creating a strong narrative, attendees could better understand the technology and its real-world applications.

Showcasing SSITH’s Protective Capabilities

As the driver faced various security threats during the simulation, SSITH’s protective capabilities were highlighted. Attendees could witness the effectiveness of the technology in real-time, providing them with a better understanding of its benefits.

This project included:

  • Brand Storytelling
  • Booth Posters
  • Exhibit Design & Visitor Experience
  • Car Design
  • Lighting Design
  • User Interface (UI / UX)
  • Car Production

In the simulation, attendees are invited to choose, “driver or hacker?” The driver sits in the car and is challenged to “Get to the Airport!” The hacker stands at the back of the car and attempts to stop the driver through steering, brakes, accelerator, and infotainment hacks. SSITH is the driver’s co-pilot, their secret weapon to restore control and get them to their destination safely.

The SSITH demonstrator needed to house three fragile and expensive development boards to work. The back of the car was enclosed between two thick acrylic panels like a museum display case. In addition creating a single large and vented area for the boards, it provided a mounting surface for the rear hacker screen. We also incorporated wiring and LED lights to represent information flow

Bright colorful lighting showed the state of the simulator: green for unprotected and unhacked, red for unprotected but hacked, and blue for protected by SSITH. The programmable LED strips lit up the car and captured attention.

KAIA developed two sets of separate and related interfaces: one for the driver’s view, and one for the hacker’s view. Each interface walked the user through the simulation while also creating a dramatic and memorable experience.

SSITH exhibit concept
SSITH exhibit concept
SSITH exhibit concept

A 2008 SmartCar convertible was chosen as the platform for its small size, open top, and open back layout. Control modules were mounted to the floor and 3D printed light tubes connected components. Computers were installed to run the displays and simulation and the dash was reassembled. Lastly, the car was designed with a vinyl wrap to capture the attention of attendees.

The Outcome

An Immersive and Engaging Experience

The SSITH exhibit provided attendees with an immersive and engaging experience that clearly communicated the technology’s benefits. By incorporating interactive elements and visual storytelling, the exhibit successfully captured the attention of trade show attendees, fostering a better understanding of SSITH and its real-world applications.

Educating Attendees on SSITH’s Functionality

The interactive simulation proved to be a highly effective way to educate attendees on SSITH’s functionality. Both technical and non-technical visitors were able to grasp the technology’s importance and advantages through hands-on experience and a clear narrative.

Impressing Industry Professionals and Management

The professional and polished presentation of the SSITH exhibit left a lasting impression on both management and industry professionals. The exhibit showcased not only the technology itself but also the team’s ability to communicate complex concepts effectively and creatively.

Key Takeaways From The SSITH Case Study

The SSITH case study demonstrates the importance of creating engaging and accessible experiences when showcasing complex technologies. By focusing on interactive elements, visual storytelling, and a clear narrative, the SSITH exhibit was able to captivate trade show attendees and effectively communicate the technology’s benefits.

Emphasizing Interaction and Hands-On Experience

Interactive exhibits provide attendees with the opportunity to engage with a technology more thoroughly, resulting in a deeper understanding of its functions and benefits. The SSITH car-driving simulator allowed users to witness the technology in action, reinforcing its importance and value.

Visual Storytelling and Exhibit Design

An effective exhibit design should draw in attendees and communicate key information clearly and concisely. The SSITH exhibit achieved this through a combination of booth posters, car design, and lighting elements, ensuring the technology’s message was accessible and visually appealing.

What KAIA Can Do For You

Are you an exhibitor looking to create an unforgettable trade show experience that effectively communicates your complex technology or product? The KAIA team of experts can help you create an engaging and immersive exhibit that captivates attendees and leaves a lasting impression on industry professionals. Make your exhibit stand out.