About Face

by Ryan Cassidy, Chief Technician TrinkeTron Project at Unicorp Industries

From the outset, one of the main design goals of the TrinkeTron Turbo 2000 was to achieve a better standard of customer service through technology. The previous model, TrinkeTron 6750, communicated by voice and flashing lights only, which sometimes proved difficult in noisy environments. At public events, an intern in a smart UniCorp lab coat would be stationed outside the machine to help customers operate the TrinkeTron and understand what it was saying. This approach worked, and hundreds of trinkets were sold in this way throughout the 2016/2017 season, but we felt there was some room for improvement. Also, interns often expected some form of recognition beyond the freshly-starched UniCorp lab coat loaned to them for the occasion, and there’s never any room in the budget for that sort of thing, so we had to come up with a better way of doing business.

Lengthy and gruelling brainstorming sessions among the remaining TrinkeTron staff (consisting of myself and loyal Ronaldo) ensued. It was agreed early on that the next TrinkeTron needed to have a “face”. Research has shown that a decent chunk of our temporal lobe is dedicated to recognizing, evaluating, and remembering faces and facial expressions. A human is generally more inclined to interact positively with another entity if it possesses a face (as opposed to entities without faces, or especially, entities with many faces). Let’s put it this way: Would you buy a trinket from a magical talking booth decorated with blinking lights? Probably not. But, if you could find a way to put the disarmingly handsome visage and personality of Eric Bogosian within that magical talking booth, well, you’ve just earned my five dollars!

Concept Art for a Bogosian-based TrinkeTron

The focus of the conversation then predictably shifted to addressing the question “What type of face should it have?”. After a quick call to Bogosian’s agent, we again confronted the realization that our budget would not allow for the participation or endorsement of any such celebrity personality. We therefore looked to various other popular personages of the previous century’s film and television media for some insight and inspiration regarding floating heads. They are presented here in a “top ten” format with corollary observational notes.

Zordon from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

Pros: Helpful, Organized, Cool-sounding voice, Always there when you need him

Cons: Blurry, A bit plain-looking, Somewhat useless, with the whole ‘perpetually trapped in a time warp’ thing

The King of the Moon from Baron Munchausin

Pros: Approachable, Gregarious, All-powerful, All-knowing, Very mobile.

Cons: Annoyingly quirky, Disconcertingly unplaceable accent and idiosyncratic manner of speaking, Morally dubious.

Unicron from Transformers

Pros: Nice hat, Very large, Impressive resume, Well-known throughout the galaxy

Cons: Non-operational, Former “Lord of Chaos/Eater of Planets”, Has a goatee (which is odd for a robot).

Zardoz from Zardoz

Pros: Can travel between dimensions, Vomits apparently unlimited amounts of weaponry, Speaks with authority.

Cons: Bug-eyed, Creepy teeth, Too noisy, general lack of expressivity.

Jambi The Genie from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse

Pros: Super portable, Benevolent, Flamboyant and expressive

Cons: Attention whore, Vaguely racialized caricature,

Questionable catch-phrase.

Oz from The Wizard of Oz

Pros: Great stage presence, Fearsome demeanour, Widespread renown and reputation.

Cons: Ultimately disappointing, Transparent and Foggy, Oversized and veiny melon-shaped head.

Polygon Heads from Kraftwerk

Pros: Memorable melodies and simple thematic lyrics about alienation in the modern age layered on top of minimalist electronic rhythms

Cons: Too robotic, Low poly-count, humourless.

Dunedin from Read All About It

Pros: Cool all-metallic face and getup, Lives in a trippy dimension full of optical illusions and traps.

Cons: Cruel and weirdly obsessed with word games, Prone to lengthy bouts of maniacal laughter.

Max Headroom from various 90’s TV shows

Pros: Slick and savvy demeanour, great fashion sense and hairstyle, understands marketing.

Cons: Annoyingly business-oriented at times, somewhat glitchy, soulless.

You’ve probably noticed that there is no floating head occupying the #1 position in our most scientific Top Ten list. That position is reserved for the yet-to-be-designed floating head of the TrinkeTron Turbo 2000 of course! Our the next progress report will elaborate on the design process of the floating head prototype, and in particular, the development of our revolutionary proprietary software, The “MEE”, or, Maxillofacial Emotive Engine.

Proceed to the next progress report “How to get A Head in Science and Tech”