Needed: a couple of daleks and the doctor
TAKE a bunch of hyperactive geeks, stick them in a ‘‘ secret’’ warehouse in San Francisco Bay and ask them to build something. That, in a nutshell, is what you get with Prototype This .
It is, according to the spin doctors, ‘‘ inventing the future, one prototype at a time’’.
‘‘ From finding solutions to today’s problems, to conceiving cool machines that are just fun to have around, the Prototype This crew imagines and then invents the future by using emerging technologies to build the craziest, one-of-a-kind prototypes of tomorrow,’’ the publicity blurb says.
The upshot is a kind of Mythbusters that lacks the central premise of actually busting myths and struggles to hold your interest. Even a breathless American voiceover, the kind usually associated with alien expose s or cop reality shows, fails to save it from its own self-indulgence.
Tonight’s project involves the team — Joe Grand ( electronics and circuit design), Terry Sandin ( animatronics and fabrication), Zoz Brooks ( robotics and computing systems) and Mike North ( materials and mechanical engineering) — building a computer game using a pair of real-world avatars that respond to player input from outside the ring.
This involves designing and building two giant robots capable of standing toe to toe and beating each other back to the scrapheap, as well as the software that controls them. The aim is that when a boxer outside the ring throws a punch, the robot does too, allowing the combatants to pound away at each other without any physical risk to themselves.
This design process involves frequent utterances of ‘‘ cool’’ — or in extreme circumstance ‘‘ so cool’’ —
Back to the scrapheap: Robots go head to head in as the team uses motion capture and computers to construct their prototype game.
The show attempts to build some tension from the fact the robots have to be designed and built before a challenge fight in which Grand will pit his non-existent boxing skills against a female boxer. There is also some frustration as parts of the project fail to go as planned, leading one team member to dramatically exclaim: ‘‘ If you can’t make the deadline, you walk away broken . . .’’
But attempts to build up any real sense of excitement are largely undermined by frequent ad breaks and the incredibly annoying voiceover. It also goes on far too long.
On a good day, and with the wind blowing in the right direction, you could possibly make a moderately interesting half-hour show out of this. But 45 minutes is stretching the friendship too far.
There is no disputing that these are clever and innovative guys. And you can see how they are trying to make science and technology appear hip and cool.
But what they have achieved is the robotic equivalent of fingernails scraping across a blackboard.