Car-munching robot a tinny B-movie star
In his Three Laws of Robotics, Isaac Asimov decreed that no automaton may harm a human but forgot to place any restrictions on cars. Disturbingly, a fire-breathing robotic monster called Robosaurus is exploiting this loophole.
On a perpetual rampage through America, at drag strips and air shows, he picks up cars, bites them in half, then triumphantly spews flames from his nostrils. Like King Kong, aircraft too are part of his iron-rich diet - he chews up the odd A6 fighter jet and twin-engine plane for dessert.
These eating antics are supported by some serious chomping equipment. Light but strong, each tooth is a hollow stainless-steel pyramid electro-polished to a near mirror finish and stitch-welded into place. His amazing teeth are complemented by height. An affront to nanotechnology, he stands 12 metres tall (twice as high as Tyrannosaurus Rex) and weighs 27,000kg (more than three times the predator's weight).
Rather lacking in the cognitive department, Robo is steered by a pilot strapped into his cranium. The pilot controls movements via a 'fly-by-wire' electronic system, which sounds torture to use. The pilot submits his arms to a cuff restraint system.
When, say, he raises his forearm or rotates his shoulders, Robosaurus echoes that movement. Meanwhile, each of the pilot's fingers is frantically giving individual 'up' and 'down' commands for various functions. For example, bringing the right middle finger and the right thumb together causes Robo's right claw to close.
'It's like playing a weird piano keyboard - with the usual set of keys lying below your fingertips and a second set of keys located above your fingertips,' according to the online book Inside Robosaurus.
Just to add to the fun, the pilot must steer the mechanical Godzilla. This involves some fancy footwork worthy of local football team Kitchee which wiped out AC Milan. All in all, Robosaurus is supposed to be as tough to operate as an F-16 fighter. You wonder how the contraption does not blunder into a crowd or building.
A dinosaur in more ways than one, Robosaurus has been plodding the entertainment circuit since the dawn of the 1990s. Built by the California-based company Monster Robots, Inc, he was inspired by the Robert Heinlein sci-fi fable, Waldo, where the title character invents a machine he puts on and wears as an extension of his own body.
The real inventor is Doug Malewicki, a Junkyard Wars judge who embodies the phrase 'eccentric inventor'. He designed the green one-eyed beast in Monsters Inc, and a steam rocket for Evil Knievel, a motorcycle with a rocket engine and a pedal bike which clocked 244km/h (fine until you fall off).
Mr Malewicki is now involved in a worthier project called C2C (coast-to-coast). Its aim is to build a fleet of light vehicles capable of driving from Los Angeles to New York on a single tank of petrol.
At a stretch, Robosaurus also can be construed as an environmental statement. After all, his sole purpose is to devour gas-guzzling vehicles. Whether onlookers necessarily think of the US$2.2 million car-nivore in those terms is doubtful, though. More likely, they are drawn to the mayhem - it is fun to hear the sound of crunching jaws and rending metal while fanned by the heat of six-metre flames.
When not wowing live audiences, Robosaurus performs in B-movies. The monster graced the 1992 revenge flick Steel Justice, teaming up with a cop to fight crime. Steel Justice bombed and a lull followed. But just when his acting career looked extinct, Robosaurus made a comeback in the 2000 Patrick Swayze flick Waking Up in Reno.
The following year, the metal thespian appeared in Southlander: Diary of a Desperate Musician alongside the likes of folk rock god Beck and Hank Williams III.
What a scandal that he was not given some part in the screen version of the Asimov thriller I, Robot where a comparatively downbeat electronic domestic assistant steals the show.
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