Kevin Charles

Animatronic Greeter at Houston Autoshow

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"Hank" is an animatronic greeter for Ford Motor Company. He is self-aware./Photo: Brent Clanton

“Hank” is an animatronic greeter for Ford Motor Company. He is self-aware./Photo: Brent Clanton

Here’s a greeter you won’t find at Wal-mart:
Ford’s animatronic “Hank,” a cross between C3PO and The Wizard of Oz.
“Hank” is named after Ford’s founder, Henry, and works tirelessly in the Ford Motor Company display area in the Houston Autoshow, running through Sunday at the Reliant Center.

Mannatronic’s robotics technician, J.C. McDaniels, who doesn’t allow visitors “behind the screen.”/Photo: Brent Clanton

The robot is the responsibility of J.C. McDaniels, who works for a company called Mannatronic, which has multiple versions of “Hank,” visting auto shows from Houston to Tokyo.

The robot is actually manned by a real human in a booth just off the staging area, wearing an elaborate harness of sensors and kinetic devices, which interpret the operator’s body language into robotic movements.
We cannot show you his face, nor reveal the rig he wears to work the machine; but it’s impressive.
“Pay no attention to the man behind the screen,” intones “Hank,” as he’s working through his paces, getting the animatronics calibrated for the show.

“Hank’s” role is to greet and entertain children of all ages–including the young at heart,” explains McDaniel. “And, he also answers questions about Ford products. Here’s here to inform and entertain.”

Asked, whether “Hank” is the grandson, or the great-great grandfather of C3PO, who has not yet arrived, McDaniel confided the lineage of the robot would make the Star Wars icon a distant grandson, from a time long, long ago, in a Galaxy far, far away.

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