Monday, April 24, 2006

Prancing Headless DogBots

Kicking the DogBot
Originally uploaded by chinese_fashion.
I've found this oddly terrifying video (via WFMU) of a four-legged robot being tested out in a variety of field conditions -- mud, snow, and tall grass. The robot itself is oddly familiar, a doglike android with a mincing, prancing step. All four of its legs have reversed knees like a dog's front legs, and the android's high, prance is perfect to allow it to navigate uneven, slippery terrain. In perhaps the most arresting sequence of the video, a man gives the Prancing DogBot a good hard kick to the side, and it regains its balance exactly the way a dog would. It's hard not to feel a wave of sympathy for the kicked machine.

Afterwards, all my sympathy turns into an odd, gnawing fear. This creature moves exactly the way that certain puppets on Sesame Street did that scared the unholy bejesus out of me as a little kid. When things that moved like this Prancing DogBot's legs came on TV, I couldn't even get close enough to turn the thing off -- I'd just bury my head under the couch cushions and try not to hear or see.

Here's the video itself:

As a small child, I had dreams and daytime visions of an army of faceless, soulless creatures marching to kill me and everything good in the world. The creatures would kill me and my teddy bear straight away, but I knew that they would enslave my parents and grandparents and make them do horrible, repetitive things.

Sometimes when I lay very still at night I could hear them marching in lockstep through space and time, getting closer and closer to my closet door which as well know was the gateway to other, more evil dimensions. If the door was shut tight, somehow the creatures from the other dimensions couldn't bust through. Doorknobs, you see, although simple on Earth, were completely alien to the army of prancing dogbots.

it was not until years later that I realized the steady thudding march of the dogbots was just my heartbeat thudding behind my eardrum on a pillow.

Now when I see this video, I am possessed with a similar vision. It is the year 2080, and the cold of winter is just beginning to recede into spring. The last straggling packs of humans have tired of sleeping in caves. Some of the braver souls in our camp spent last night out by the mouth of the cave, exposed to the robots' heatseeking devices and not even hidden by foliage, as the trees are still bare.

We all wake at down to the shrieking, beelike diesel chorus of a dozen dogbots in the not-so-distant distance. From my vantage point on a granite outcropping, I can see a dozen dancing digital dogs nimbly picking their way uphill towards us, the heatseeking laser turrets on their backs sweeping the area.

They haven't found us yet, but they are advancing with their merciless, silly march. I try to shout 'run', but the words will not come. A dark stain spreads across my crude tunic as I realize our fate, even as I ready a boulder over my grey, balding head to crush the first wave of attackers.


At 1:11 PM, Anonymous Sweet said...

That is some freaky stuff dude. Yeesh!

At 11:58 AM, Blogger Da Nator said...

Wow. That is just so deeply disturbing, I'm sure I'll be having nightmares now, too. Thanks!

At 12:51 PM, Blogger Da Nator said...

BTW, are you familiar with the video for Rockit? Not for the faint of heart. Very similar robot-as-living-creature vibe, only even more sinister. I am still traumatized by it as an adult.

At 5:36 PM, Blogger Rothko said...

That is kind of frightening, but also strangely funny. (Perhaps I laugh because I'm too scared to know what else to do.) Incidently, I used to get scared when the introductory music to Sesame Street came on. An odd number of people I talk to were scared by Sesame Street. But we kept watching it anyway. There must be something to that.


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