1979 – “NUTRO” the Robot – (American)

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1979 – "NUTRO" the Robot by Hoffmann-La Roche Inc.

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The Index-Journal, Greenwood, S.C. Sat., April 21, 1979-p7
Robot raves about nutrition

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Caption: Traveling companions – Nutritionist Dave Canty serves as voice and remote-control operator for Nutro, a 400-pound robot who tours the country speaking to children on nutrition.
NUTLEY, N.J — Traveling coast-to-coast to visit six cities in six weeks is not an easy trip for anyone, but it's especially complicated if you happen to be a 400-pound, remote-controlled robot.
There's the need for specially designed vehicles, the confusion of traveling in the baggage compartments of airplanes, the inconvenience of batteries that need daily charging, the danger of shorting electric body circuits in the rain, the problems of bolts that come loose over bumpy roads, arid the inability to climb steps.
SINCE HIS FIRST nationwide tour last fall in a rented high-roof van, Nutro, a robot whose name was suggested by a combination of the words nutrition and robot, has solved some of his traveling problems.
For his spring tour of eight cities, he will travel as a U.S. symbol for the International Year of the Child, as it relates to children's rights to adequate nutrition, in his personal, custom-made van.
It features a hydraulic lift to ease Nutro's exit to the street and a special outlet that runs off the van's alternator to provide on-the-road battery recharging.
NUTRO, A CREATION of the Vitamin Education Program of Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., as a public-service, nutrition-education program, is touring as a "guest lecturer" on the subject of nutrition. His message, delivered in schools across the country, is on the importance of proper nutrition and correct nutrition information.
The 5-foot-2, 31-inch-wide, conical-shape robot has a movable globe head, red light-bulb eyes and flexible accordion-like arms. His wood and metal frame is clothed in a combination of yellow spandex and red and blue glittery lurex fabric. It houses over 500 moving parts and 2,000 feet of wire.
Nutro's head moves from side to side and can soar 12 inches skyward when he explains how excited he is about nutrition His chest lights up to emphasize the essential nutrients printed on his chest wall. He can wave and shake hands.
Nutro may be the most heavily insured teacher's aide around. His voice alone is insured for $150,000 with Lloyds of London, and monthly premiums on protecting his body and his program total $600. The construction bill was $25,000, and an identical stand-in cost $20,000.
TRAVELING THE country is rarely easy for Nutro but is never lonely. He is always accompanied by Joe Wilkenson, his technician, and Dave Canty, a Ph.D-candidate nutritionist who serves as his voice and remote-control operator.
In his first tour, Nutro traveled completely assembled inside his original shipping crate. Every night when his companions checked into motels, he went along, sharing a room with his technician, and plugged into electric outlets to recharge his batteries. Meanwhile, his 9-volt voice box was being charged in another outlet and his 12-volt remote-control equipment in a third.
EXITING FROM his van on a makeshift ramp was a clumsy process during last year's 8,000-mile tour. Sometimes Nutro was wheeled down the ramp but at other times, particularly when a crowd of curious children had gathered, he moved down the ramp on his pneumatic tires under his own power, with Canty working the remote controls.
If there are special problems in traveling with a robot there are also special privileges. None of the motels where Nutro stayed charged him for his visits despite all the electric current he used for his batteries.
Although Nutro's favorite topic of conversation is nutrition, Canty admits that the robot has developed into a unique character with a personality of his own during his months on the road.
IN HIS MUNCHKIN-LIKE voice, he teases motel maids by telling them he is the replacement sent to take over their jobs.
And although most of his time is spent in schools and the children's wards of hospitals. Nutro has also found time to try out his John Wayne imitation at a Hollywood party. learn to wolf whistle, and do what he calls a "funky robot disco" at a chic Manhattan nightspot.


Taste of the Past: The nuts and bolts of nutrition. Source: Star Tribune.
Robot helped students understand nutrition.
By RICK NELSON Star Tribune
March 31, 2010 — 2:40pm
Students at Page Elementary School learn nutrition from a robot.
William Seaman, Star Tribune
Students at Page Elementary School learn nutrition from a robot.

Take a look at cutting-edge educational technology, circa 1979. His name was Nutro, and he rolled into Page Elementary School in Minneapolis as a part of a nationwide tour of sixth- and seventh-grade classrooms.

The goal of Nutro's work was to spice up the bone-dry topic of nutrition for tween audiences, which he accomplished with a lively mix of chatter and Q&A. Of course, the sci-fi metal and plastic get-up didn't hurt.

"Although he positively hypnotized the delighted and eager students, Nutro couldn't function without a real, live nutrition expert's help," wrote Beth Anderson, a Taste staff writer, in a May 2, 1979, story. "Dave Canty, a 27-year-old who has finished his doctoral course work in nutritional sciences, was folded up inside Nutro's cone-shaped body."

Turns out Canty — sorry, Nutro — wasn't part of a 1970s No Child Left Behind-style government initiative; his work was sponsored by a vitamin manufacturer. Anderson noted that Canty intended to use "Nutro's educational experiences in his doctoral work, by comparing Nutro's effectiveness with schoolchildren with the same techniques executed by the biochemical unit commonly known as a teacher."


See other early Humanoid Robots here.

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