The first thing you're going to want to do when you walk into the T. Rex Encounter exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which opens today, is run up to the gigantic, robotic Tyrannosaurus rex. The problem is, the second you do that, the T. rex will roar at you and despite the fact you're a grown adult, you will stop in your tracks a little terrified.
Which, to put it another way, is exceptionally entertaining. I can't imagine the thoughts running through a child's mind during a similar moment, but I'd guess, like mine, they will fluctuate between, "this is coolest thing I've ever seen," and "I'm terrified and want to hide in the kitchen cupboards."
There are three robotic dinosaurs that track and respond to your movements, a T. rex, a Triceratops and a raptor, with another raptor that you can interact with on the opposite side of the makeshift prehistoric environment. The dinosaurs feature face recognition technology, so when you approach them, they react to what you're doing. They'll even follow you around and occasionally roar if you get too hasty with your movement. It's a bit eerie, especially when you're mano a mano with nobody else in the room. That won't ever happen though, and with a group of people it should prove more rambunctious.
The Triceratops also happens to be guarding her hatching eggs, so you'll need to be especially careful around her, as you don't want to get between anything with three horns jutting out of its head and its kin. The T. rex, as you'd expect, is absolutely terrifying.
Even when you're aware the T. rex is a robot, it still makes you feel a bit uneasy as it tracks your movement. After all, running into a dinosaur would be horrifying, but running into a robot dinosaur would be too. All of the dinosaurs will let out a roar if you make them uneasy, and once one does it, the rest are sure to follow. Countless hours could be spent just playing around with the robots alone.
But that's not all -- on top of the dino-bots, the T. Rex Encounter comes packed with a cast of Sue, the largest, most complete T. rex skeleton ever unearthed. You'll be able to get a close look at the cast, inspecting a few places where the dinosaur had broken ribs or other broken part. There is also an eye-level display of the skull right when you walk into the exhibit, which is a nice touch if you want to get up close and personal with the beast. Denver is the only place with both of these exhibits running at the same time.
Besides the nearly endless entertainment you'll get from the dinosaurs and staring at the heft of Sue, the rest of the exhibit is almost entirely interactive. You can touch and move everything, from simulations of how a T. rex would eat, to how it would walk. You can even get a sense of how its short little arms restricted movement, and an idea of the difference between the T. rex and Triceratops' vision by looking through monocular and binocular vision. Literally everything in the exhibit can be interacted with on some level, which, even as an adult was entertaining and educational. The T. rex arm inhibitor makes me want to be a T. rex a little bit less now.
Kids will also be able to solve some dinosaur related mysteries while learning about them from the ubiquitous Sherlock Bones, and you can snag a photo op with a green screen T. Rex, which gets uploaded to Flickr, before you leave. This is handy because you can't take pictures in the exhibit, as a camera flash will send the dinosaurs terrorizing across the museum (assumably, or something like that).
What sets T. Rex Encounter apart from most museum exhibits is the simple fact you're entirely involved from the second you walk in. It's immersing you into the world, sure, but more importantly, it's letting you touch and manipulate it. Plus, it's bilingual, so you'll finally be able to learn how to say Tyrannosaurus rex in Spanish.
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