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The following article appeared December 15, 2006 in the

 "Science museum surrenders to robots' metallic charms"

By Tin O"Meilia
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Posted
December 15, 2006

WEST PALM BEACH — Like famous sci-fi actors of recent vintage, Robby the Robot and B9, the mechanical man from Lost in Space, are cashing in on their celebrity.

   Appearing at the South Florida Science Museum beginning Saturday, and for the next nine months, the robotic replicas of the original film and TV show are the headliners at the new exhibit "Robotics."

   The pair banter back and forth, first in familiar metallic robot voices, then in those of WPTV meteorologists Steve Weagle and Dean Tendrich.

   Robby, from the 1956 classic Forbidden Planet ("I was really the star of the film"), teases B9 about his nemesis, Dr. Smith, from the 1965-68 television series. "That bubbleheaded boobie," B9 says of Smith.

   The pair repeat some of their memorable lines. B9: "Danger, Will Robinson, danger!" and "I am not programmed for babysitting." Robby: "My beams are focused on your blaster," and "I am giving myself an oil job."

   The two-robot shtick is just what science museum officials hope will draw thousands to the $113,000 exhibit created by the Carnegie Science Center. Robby and B9 are provided by HighTechScience.org of Boca. Former science museum director Ed Sobey donated the use of his Robot Rodeo.

   "This is an exponential leap in the quality of exhibits we've brought in, and we're committed to high level exhibits for the next three years," said exhibits director Pete Feher. By then, the museum hopes to be close to moving into the new $54.8 million Dekelboum Science Center.

   The exhibit features more than two dozen interactive stations. Visitors can race an industrial robot to find three keys among many to open three locks. The robot usually wins, given its sophisticated visual ability to recognize the ridges in each key.

   Another robot challenges visitors to fool its motion sensing system. Try to control a mechanical arm to perform a simple task.

   The exhibits are designed to demonstrate how robots work and the difficulty in designing a mechanism to perform a simple task. Visitors can design a robot to their own specifications.

   Visitors try to tie shoes with a mechanical hand, while a robot heckles from nearby. "What's so easy for people do is enormously difficult for a robot to perform," Feher said. "But a robot can perform the same task perfectly time after time, 24/7."

   Bob May, who played B9 in the Lost in Space series, will be at the museum this weekend. Internet visitors can view the gallery in real time through the eyes of a robot designed by Jupiter Cybernetics. Visit www.sfsm.org and follow the link.


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