Road trip news, rants, and ruminations by the Editors of RoadsideAmerica.com
July 16, 2008
The problem with robot animatronic dummies has always been the -atronic part. Cams whir, connecting rods clank, and you’re always waiting for a belt to seize and flames to explode out of Abraham Lincoln’s head.
Now a company in New Jersey has advanced the mad science of the pseudohuman host with what it calls the “SpokesMannequin”(TM). It’s a 3-D human face projected onto a matching 3-D dummy head, creating something somewhat akin to human life. The rest of the dummy is just a dummy, so there are no moving parts.
One of these ‘droids, a motion-sensor-triggered Ben Franklin, has been installed at the entrance to the Newman Money Museum in St. Louis. “The character speaks with obvious relish about Franklin’s pivotal role in the development of currency,” a press release claims. Wayne Sullivant, president of the SpokesMannequin company, told us that Ben also has “a nice costume and an historically accurate chair.”
Ben’s face on the $100 bill certainly helped in his selection as the Money Museum’s host, and took us back to an earlier, and eerily similar use of robot Ben, in Enterprise Square USA. There the paper money heads of Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton spoke and sang about the glory of free markets. Their spiel was accompanied by the clacking of solenoid switches, the hissing of pneumatic pumps, and the clatter of nutcracker jaws. We will miss that in the new Ben, but maybe as his DVD decays it will create new and terrifying optical effects, hitherto unseen.
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