How has the future changed in the two decades since the original “Terminator”? ^ Our animatronic and robotic technology has advanced so much in the years since “The Terminator.” Back then, we were pretending to create a robot by using puppetry and stop-motion animation. Now, with our new technology and our use of makeup effects and digital effects, we were able to show much more of the endoskeleton under Arnold (at the end when he becomes partially destroyed) than we ever have before. We advanced our animatronics technology in “T2,” which for the first time blended seamlessly with CG [computer graphics] technology. In the first scene of “T2,” when the Terminator’s foot crushes the skull and you pan up to see the entire endoskeleton scanning the horizon of the future war, that was a full-blown robotic puppet. Our animatronic technology had advanced there, and also when Arnold rips the skin off his hand and you see the completely articulated robotic arm underneath. All the puppetry we did to replicate the destruction of the T-1000, making it look like liquid metal, where we actually metalized rubber to allow it to move, and then closed it up using CG technology. CG technology took huge advancements there, but still no real robots on the screen. In “T3,” we’ve created the T-X, which is a combination of animatronic puppetry and CG technology. We’ve also created another Terminator, the T-1, which was the precursor to the Arnold [model], the T-800. It was the very first Terminator and a cruder version. It’s a robotic character that moves on tank-like treads and has two big gattling guns. And guess what? The T-1 is a robot, and that’s all it is. We built five of them, thanks to the advancements of our robotic technology, especially with the “Jurassic Park” series. Whereas we pretended to build robots in “T1″ and “T2,” in “T3,” we actually built robots. The T-1′s are complete robots. There’s no CG. Everything you see them doing, they’re doing as robots would do them. So in “Terminator 3,” we’ve actually finally gone to the beginning and started building robots.
Which means for the first time ever, we have reason to fear that Terminator-style robots might take over the world? ^ But we’re doing that also! After the movie A.I., I was approached by M.I.T., and now we’re building an artificial intelligence. The character’s name is Leonardo. He’s back at the studio right now. A couple of the guys from M.I.T. are here, and we’re working on him right now. And he will be growing over the next many years and learning. So everything that you can imagine ends up being a reality.
It was M.I.T. coming to me and saying, “We’ve realized at M.I.T. that the thing we’re missing in the artificial intelligence lab is the organic, robotic technology that you’ve developed at Stan Winston Studio that allows the robots to move organically” (like the robots in “Jurassic Park,” or like Teddy in “A.I.”), the cosmetic reality of the robots that we’ve created. And in order for A.I. to truly learn, it has to interface with human beings. The artificial intelligence is going to learn is by interacting with human beings. And the concept is the more you can relate to the robot, the better chance you’re gonna have of sitting there and talking with it. And you’re not talking to a computer. You’re talking to something that looks real and acts real, and that gives the artificial intelligence a chance to learn through its interaction with you. … Does artificial intelligence scare me? No, we scare me.
You mentioned the research your team did for Wrong Turn. To what degree do you back your designs of the next-generation Terminator in science? No doubt it benefits by twelve years of advancement, not only in computer graphics, but also in robotics technology. How has that time changed your notion of what the future would bring? ^ The fact of the matter is, we are advancing. We have in fact built a robot that is in the movie that was the first Terminator. It’s there. It actually works. And the advancement is due to the imagination of filmmakers, which pushes science further forward, and then scientific advancement sparks the imagination of filmmakers to do more and to think more imaginative thoughts. And the more you imagine, the more the scientific pushes itself forward to continue to try and reach those goals. So the one is constantly pushing the other. The science pushes the art. The art pushes the science, and it’s a never-ending cycle. Listen, when Jules Verne wrote 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, there was no such thing as a submarine. When he wrote From the Earth to the Moon, there was no such thing as a rocket ship, and no one had ever gone to the moon. So everything that we have done historically, that we have imagined, at some point has been realized. So, if we’re imagining it, we can realize it.
Posted on June 6, 2003 in Interviews by Peter Debruge
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