Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Well, it's got Dinobots

I am no fan of Michael Bay.

You've heard me say it in other posts and hating on him is something like grabbing at low-hanging fruit at this point.  There's just too much obvious material there.  So while the latest Transformers movie is getting almost universally panned, there is one aspect of it that has a bit of fanboy appeal: Dinobots.  While giant robots that transform into dinosaurs may sound illogical at best and geeksploitation at worst, Daniel Wilson wrote a column at Wired that explains why Dinobots actually make sense.

Wilson is the author of the wildly popular novel Robopocalypse, a book soon to get its own film treatment by Steven Spielberg no less.  More than that, Wilson has a PhD in robotics.  So it's reasonable to assume that he actually knows of which he speaks.  He gives five reasons why Dinobots are more than a cheap gimmick to him.

-Biomimetics.  As stated in last Friday's post on drones, roboticists study animals in nature to find ideal means of motion and mechanics.  Dinosaurs were combat machines that survived hundreds of millions of years.  In fact, they were around for longer than we have been thus far.  Something about their design worked.

-The appearance of a robot should outwardly portray its function.  Smart robots tend to look like humans and those designed with lesser intellectual capabilities resemble animals.  Okay, this one's kinda weak.

-Locomotion.  Quote Wilson: "How is an Autobot supposed get to the battlefield when it can only transform into a sports car with a mere eight inches of ground clearance? Answer: Ride a magnificent Dinobot." Ditto on the weak.

-Fear factor.  No matter what planet you're from, a building-sized robot dinosaur should be suitably terrifying.  No argument there.  Just imagine Grimlock bearing down, waiting to leave its heavy dino metal dactylogram upon the landscape.  Shudder.

-Vogue.  If you recall, the Transformers had among their number robots who would transform into cassette tapes and other quintessential 1980s items.  Dinosaurs are not subject to passing fads.

While I might not be the biggest Transformers fan, I've liked the Dinobots.  Dinosaurs and robots just seem to be a natural fit for whatever reason.  Maybe it comes from seeing the massive robotic dinosaurs at EPCOT's World of Energy as a kid.  Or maybe it's just another case of "two great things that go great together."  In reality, it's just silly fun that inspires people to get interested in robotics...people like Daniel Wilson.

It's still not enough to get me to see this kidney stone of a movie.  If you're in the same camp, Wired also has a guide on how to forget how bad Transformers 4 is.

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