Mandelson sends his daleks into the Dome

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The Independent Online
THE Millennium Dome is to be patrolled by hundreds of "baby daleks" which will scuttle around the exhibits keeping visitors in check. Peter Mandelson, credited with putting Labour MPs "on message", plans to install obedient miniature robots at the Greenwich site.

Designs are now being drawn up by the New Millennium Experience Company, which is organising the Dome, for the dalek-like creatures. According to insiders, they are likely to look like a cross between the Star Wars robot R2D2 and K9 from the BBC's Dr Who, with a dome-shaped head and metal body.

The robots, expected to be around 1ft high, will move around the crowds at random and manoeuvre between exhibits. They may also carry instructions, messages or directions for visitors. Although they may be programmed to talk, it is thought that the phrase "exterminate, exterminate" will not be included in their vocabulary. However, staff at Labour's Millbank Tower - known affectionately as daleks themselves - can be assured that they will be following instructions.

The creatures are likely be one of the key attractions at the Dome and are intended both to amuse and interact with visitors, and to demonstrate the wonders of new technology and artificial intelligence. Children will be able to pat the daleks on the head and buy souvenir versions at the Millennium Dome shop. The idea is based on similar prototype robots which featured in the 1951 Festival of Britain, organised by Mr Mandelson's grandfather, Herbert Morrison. Those creatures - which were more like turtles than daleks - became a cult toy at the time and children forced their parents to take them to the exhibition because it was the only place at which it was possible to buy them. The Trade and Industry Secretary hopes that his daleks will have the same effect at the Millennium Dome. "The technology is not that expensive and people will want something to take away as a memento," one source said.

During his trip to Disneyland in Florida earlier this year, Mr Mandelson was impressed by the number of sideshows and wandering entertainers which featured in the theme park. He made clear that he wanted to import similar amusements to the Greenwich site.

The next phase in the development of the Dome is to be announced on Thursday. The New Millennium Experience Company will announce more sponsors and disclose details of the contents of the site. The Mind Zone is expected to include a "virtual zoo" made up of robotic animals, incorporating such highly advanced computer technology that they react like real creatures when they are touched.

The final designs for the Body Zone are also likely to be published. After being a man, a woman, then an asexual person, the model has now been turned into two entwined figures, one male, one female.