Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Robot Sanitorium Shapes Up

Written 29 July, 2008

The Robot Sanatorium Shapes Up

Sweetie and I have been spending a lot of time in the robot sanitorium lately.

No, no, no, not as patients—although we both DO have robot avatars!

The sanatorium is the result of a whim that arose after a visit to the Museum of Robots on the Kubrick sim. I went on a bot-building kick, and suddenly we were talking about a home for the universe’s most disturbed mechanical creatures.

Since Sweetie thought the sanatorium should be inside a giant robot head floating high in the sky (of COURSE she would think that!), that’s how we did it. I used a giant 60x60x60 meter cylinder turned on its side to make the head of Rosie, the Jetsons’ robot maid. Sweetie pared down two 60x60x60 spheres to close off the sides. I made ears and eyes and a headpiece from giant prims and a temporary floor from 20x20 prims, and suddenly it was.. a place.

It didn’t look like much at first, but after we built a landing with flashing neon signs (one spells out R, RO, ROB, ROBO, ROBOT, ROBOT SANATORIUM) and made a 1960’s-era reception area just inside the entranceway, the sanatorium began to really take shape.

The reception area features a curved oak desk on which robothemed magazines are scattered. An animated welcome sign greets visitors in a half-dozen languages. A mural from Karel Capek’s 1921 play Rossum’s Universal Robots (the first use of the term robot was in R.U.R.) covers the wall opposite the desk. Above the mural are Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics. The second law is defaced by an anarchy symbol. 1960s Ames chairs sit in a line against a wall.

To get the gritty industrial look Sweetie wanted, I made walls of sooty brick, and we textured the inside of Rosie’s curved top half with an industrial window texture. Sweetie threw up an extensive network of ramps and platforms, (you’d be surprised how much room there is inside a 60x60x60 prim!), and suddenly the sanatorium began to look like a made-over factory.

I stretched my scripting skills and made a metal detector; one stands on either side of the reception area to scan avatars going up the robot (south) and bioform (north) ramps. After scanning, robots find themselves enclosed by a metal cage. As they continue up the ramp, the poor things must pass through three delousing stations which, respectively, flame, irradiate, and fumigate them.

Beneath the main floor is a partially-completed understory. Here one finds the Hal 9000 Memorial Facility for the Robotically Criminally Insane. There is, of course, a scanner to negotiate. The facility sits on a manicured lawn and features two padded cells which are reached via metal walkways. Originally I made three cells, but two seems to work better. So the Whimsy Kaboom Robot Sanitorium is a two-padded-cell facility.

To reach the bottom level, avatars must negotiate the walkways. When they reach the topmost level, they walk a narrow gate to a gravity drop (patent pending). They fall 30 meters into a vat of hot oil and continue to fall to the lower level (the oil is phantom only when the gravity drop tells it to be).

The gravity drop was another stretch for me; it was the first time I used a sensor to detect the presence of an avatar. I’ll probably change the script to detect collisions instead, as that would no doubt be less laggy.

Looking at Rosie from the outside, nothing shows; she’s simply Rosie. Inside the sanatorium, looking at the huge expanse of lawn, huge prim walls, and dozens of ramps, it’s sometimes easy to forget that one is 3500 meters above the ground inside a big robot head.

So anyway, if we’re not around, we’re probably at the sanatorium, tweaking.

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