The MINI Transformer… Sorta

Okay – this may not be real but it's one heck of a fake. It's also a great story:

“I first had the vision to build a robot while working as an engineer on the old Mini Coopers in the late 1960s. There were no real robots at the time of course, so it was purely science-fiction. But I always believed a robot would be the most natural complement to the automobile – a full biped, intelligent version having great strength, dexterity and a library of mechanical knowledge. I imagined a robot with the ability to repair vehicles, direct traffic and watch over high-accident crossroads to preempt accidents.

This ambition started to look possible when work began on the new Mini. I've always believed BMW overbuilds many of their parts, so the over-building of certain Mini applications for my robotics use went unnoticed. In 1998, I began tests in a remote location outside Oxford.

In 2000 I thought my formal connection to Mini might be severed when Rover was sold by BMW. Luckily, BMW chose to retain the Mini brand. Subsequently, a few engineers would need to stay in England – Oxford to be exact. I was slated for retirement and was originally from the Oxford area so it raised little suspicion when I offered to stay. From then on, progress was swift.”

You can read the entire “story” along with pics and movies here.

The current speculation is that MINI is somehow behind all of this as a guerrilla marketing tactic. If so it's a pretty amazing job and yet another great idea.

  • Brian

    Oh man, I can't believe that…it looks so much like the Nomad 🙂

  • Technomage

    I will repost what I posted to slashdot last week about this. This is not a real robot, please tell me you didn't think it was real Gabe.

    It's a nice bit of CG, it might be from MINI :: The site is well camouflaged to make it seem real. The CG work is well done. It wouldn't suprise me if this is a site created by MINI. They have a long history of non-traditional advertising. They have put a MINI in the stands at a Giants Baseball game. They put them into Malls on a platform with coin slots saying $16,995 in quaters for a ride. There best known one was putting the MINI on the roof of a Chevy Suburban and driving it arround San Francisco.

    It was also recently revealed that the Weekly World News article with BatBoy Stealing a MINI was a planted article by MINI USA.

  • To tell you the truth I was relying on someone else with all this info. I just took a look at it and well – changed the article a bit 🙂

    I could definitely see this being done by MINI.

  • Also over on slashdot, someone did a lookup for the doman, and traced the address to :”Martyn Gould Productions, 6 D'Arblay St, London, W1F 8DN, UK / On a page titled: “Film and Television – Post Production, Commercials”

  • Bob

    I think the REAL question here is….is it an “S” or a normally aspirated Cooper?

  • Brian

    C'mon Bob…it's obviously a 'convertible' 😉 (sorry…couldn't resist)

  • Ivan

    According to the WHOIS database, the domain is registered to a David Mayhew from London. The name the author of gives on the website is Colin Mayhew, which is kind of weird. is registered to Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW).

    If this is the work of MINI marketing, they're doing a great job of covering their tracks!

  • ZeRoSL

    Well i dunno about the whole faking thing, but i got to know about this from reading an excerpt from a book by Rowland Samuel entitled Men of Metal, this might be just part of the scam but i read about this guy being a journalist in Oxford England and clueing in the pieces of the puzzle of this Robot that saved people's lives from car accidents. The site ( testing in oxford, which also goes along with this Dr. Mayhew is a respected man from Oxford with a ph.d

    well you can probably find these people who were eyewitnesses….

    and besides what is so unreal about it? Internal Combustion Robots exist in Many places. i mean you can look at the walking dinosaur that was powered by IC power, quadropod trucks, walking robots for timber industry, and stuff all work on the same power system. The mini Cooper parts are overbuilt (which is partly due to Dr. Mayhew) (multi link rear suspension?) on a front wheel drive car, multilink rear suspension is overkill. Mini has no formal explanation. There is more if you read the book(let)

    i do believe its true however naive i may be. i mean if this is legit, i may dream up my own ideas someday and build a working Gundam

    ill probably never see this site again, so bye ppls,

    End note – Im just a teen who came upon this stuff, and frankly am a nerd, and have a little background with my dads auto parts shop

    i am in no way affiliated with the mini company, Dr. Mayhew, or anyone else (except my dad) mentioned above

  • ZeRoSL – since this article was published we've done a couple articles detailing the truth behind the Men of Metal campaign. Here's the first story [LINK], and here's the second [LINK].

  • Redneck

    Here is something that I found interesting, I have found nothing else on the site in any of the other folders. the only other file that you don't see is the file which sends you to why make up all those folders for one webpage on your entire site? Because it makes it that much more believable that it is not an ad. unless you realize that all the rest of the site is blank.

  • I knew for sure this must be a marketing ploy when I spotted the “robot” on a banner poster hung on the Highland Ave. side of the Hollywood/Highland Shopping Complex in Hollywood, Calif. (other Cooper Mini ads hung there before and after this one). Another tip-off I confess I initially missed was the ever-repreated assertion that the Mini is “over-engineered” in both the “book exerpt” and the Professor's “web site.” Once I saw other posts pointing that out I agreed: it sounds like a marketing ploy! Third tip-off: the totally non-functional bucket seats attached to the “robot's” lower legs. Their only purpose I can see is to show potential buyers that the Mini does have bucket seats.

  • vyperbyte

    Its a fake. Watch the video closely, especially at the shadowing. In the night tracking test, his shadow crosses the floor, but not the robot’s leg when he walks by. Also, the robot is casting a big shadow on the white panel in front, yet the shadow on the floor is going the other way, as well as the lack of a strong light on the back to give it that dark of a shadow on the white board. In the car stopping test, the cable coming out of the robot’s back doesn’t cast a shadow on the floor even though it droops so close to the concrete.

    Anyway, I just happened to be surfing the web and found this posting, thought I would check it out. Of course, if it turns out to be real, I will be eating my words. But from what I can tell, it’s a very clever job of CG. At any rate, it’s fun to watch.

  • DigDug

    I found them out! It’s definately a fake. I work with computer systems and have seen a few imaging systems in my time, and raised an eyebrow at how advanced that one was. Seeing the robot stop a car had me seriously doubting, but the proof is at:

    The page was intentionally designed to look like a page not found page for Microsoft Internet Explorer. I wouldn’t have gotten a link to a Microsoft site, as I use Mozilla browser.

  • bob

    this robot is very good i dea but i want more info!

  • Crazed Ape

    Yes I agree, the shadows are all over the place, some going in wrong directios, some cast without a matching light source.

    And DigDug, the 404 page you found is not a fake page. It’s the default 404 that comes with Internet Information Services (IIS).

    Just because you don’t browse with a M$ product doesn’t mean you’re not connecting to one on the other end. Ummmm, by the way, error 404 (page not found) is never generated localy, it’s always generated by the server you connected to, and the 404 page is fully configurable, you can set it to show anything you like.