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It Really Is All About The Benjamins

Mannequin with 3d projected face.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.

Sections: Attraction News 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “It Really Is All About The Benjamins”

  1. kf Says:
    July 16th, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    They have had one of these things at the Mount St. Helens visitor center for quite a while now. It’s a female park guide mannequin in front of a bunch of tourist mannequins whose questions she answers. It is the creepiest thing you have ever seen, not only because of the face projected on a lifeless body, but because all the mannequins are painted ash gray as if they were flash-fossilized by the eruption and are now doomed to spend the rest of eternity immobile, repeating spiels about not taking rocks as souvenirs.

  2. auridicyl Says:
    July 17th, 2008 at 6:50 am

    The Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World had these when I was a kid (though they were just singing busts, not full-size mannequins), so I’m not sure this qualifies as a full-on breakthrough.

  3. Robot Greg Says:
    July 17th, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Thanks for posting that. I could swear I saw something like this while in Korea. The morning after my encounter and up until today I had convinced myself that the whole thing was all just a soju-induced nightmare. My sanity has been restored.

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