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The BBC's Tom Heap
"The museum knows the public will flock to see it"
 real 56k

The Natural History Museum's Dr Angela Milner
"It's going to be preying on a poor, unfortunate plant-eating dinosaur"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 6 February, 2001, 08:14 GMT
Roaring T Rex robot unveiled
Dino BBC
The museum hopes to sell similar creatures to other galleries
A moving, roaring, smelly dinosaur is to be set loose at the Natural History Museum in London, UK.

The robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex is four metres (13ft) high and seven metres (23ft) long - about three-quarters the size of the real beast that walked the Earth for more than 160 million years.

The animatronic animal is one of the centrepiece events in the museum's Year of the Predator and will go on display in a gallery that has the aroma of a stinking swamp.

"The T. rex is as realistic as the science will allow," Dr Angela Milner, dinosaur expert at The Natural History Museum, told BBC News Online. "The technology has come along way in the last five years. In five years from now, this beast could be walking around the gallery."

Dino sales

The robot dino is an evolution of the machine that first terrified and wowed museum visitors two years ago. A central computer and complex electronics drive hundreds of air pistons under the rubber creature's skin.

Dino BBC
The dino makes "wicked" movements
"The larger movements are so much more fluid and the smaller, cell movements are that much more subtle," said Audrey O'Connell, head of international business development at the museum.

The T. rex thrashes its tail and curls its lips before sweeping its jaws down to head height as if to bite the nearest human. Its roars echo around the museum.

The top London visitor attraction is developing the technology with Japanese animatronics company Kokoro. The two organisations hope to sell similar beasts to science and dinosaur galleries around the world. This particular T. rex model can be purchased for 220,000.

Eating program

When London visitors get to see the robot dino from 17 February, it will be in a pit eating its prey. "We can vary its movements," said Dr Milner, "and when it goes in the dinosaur pit it will be programmed with an eating cycle and will make noises to match."

School children visiting the museum on Tuesday were given a sneak preview of the beast. They even got up close to stroke the carnivore as it grunted and shook its head. "It's really, really cool," said the pupils from Christ Church CE School in Battersea, London. "It's got wicked movements."

The museum had hoped to waft T. rex breath (the smell of rotting flesh) around the gallery. "Unfortunately, we found the smell to be so terrible it would have put people off," said Audrey O'Connell. "So, instead, we've gone for the smell of the swamp in which T. rex would have stood."

The smell, available in small bottles for those who want to take it away with them, is described as acrid and slightly smokey. This correspondent thought it a cross between mothballs, honey and a whisky that had gone past its best.

The smell has been called Maastrichtian Miasma. Maastrichtian from the Cretaceous chalk layers uncovered on the outskirts of the Dutch town of Maastricht, and Miasma meaning noxious emanation.

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23 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
Dinosaurs 'hunted in packs'
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24 May 99 | Sci/Tech
Grrrrreat big beast
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