Age catching up to robotic beasts
The spitter is back, and his howling, growling and glowering friends at Dinosaur Journey in Fruita will be themselves again in time for the tourist season next summer.
The spitter, better known to paleontologists as a dilophosaur, has thrilled and spattered junior dinosaur fans for about 14 years now at the Fruita center.
Age, however, finally caught up with the doppelganger of the early Jurassic meat eater that paleontologists believe spat blinding poison into the eyes of its prey.
The dilophosaur was one of the centerpieces of the museum when it was built by Dinamation Inc., a venture that put robotic dinosaurs in museums in Grand Junction and other western towns.
Dinamation has since gone the way of the dilophosaurs, but the models have stayed on the job.
Dinamation is now the Museum of Western Colorado’s Dinosaur Journey, and the beasts on display there are showing their age.
For instance, “We have a mute stegosaur right now,” said Dr. John Foster, curator of paleontology.
A significant problem, said Mike Perry, executive director of the museum, is that Dinamation is out of business, as are many of the ventures it planted.
A similar museum in Grants, N.M., for instance, is now a senior center.
“It was top-notch stuff as recently as 15 years ago,” Perry said.
The inner workings of the beasts — the joints, the steel rods, solenoids, air compressors and so on — are in good working order, but
the brains have run their course, Foster said.
Worse, those brains, actually computers, look more like lumbering old diplodicus than the fast-paced velociraptors of modern computing.
So the museum had to find a company that could rebuild a robotic dinosaur brain, and it had to do so quickly because the dilophosaur is a prime attraction.
To raise the cash for a new dilophosaur brain, the museum sold one of its vans, Perry said.
The upshot is the museum will repair and give new voice to its herd over the winter while the spitter is working on his aim.
Better yet, said Foster, the dilophosaur will spit more often and at targets on a rebuilt, more stable bridge.