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Halo marketing: Remote-controlled real robot

Robot arm stashed in San Francisco warehouse is user-controllable via Facebook Connect and a special Web site. We like it.

Noble Team of Spartans
Members of the Noble Team of Spartans, many of whom don't face the brightest future. Microsoft Game Studios

The folks behind the sure-to-be-a-hit Halo: Reach have a new viral-marketing tool: a giant robotic arm that users can control remotely to create an online monument to a squad of fallen soldiers featured in the upcoming game.

The arm, a Kuka KR 140, is purportedly stashed in some secret warehouse in San Francisco with an LED light on the end of its articulated joints (for all we can tell, it could be a virtual construct, though even that's still a cool idea). When users log in to the site via Facebook, they can select a "point of light." The arm then swings the light to the point the user has picked, and it becomes permanently illuminated on the site.

This is the robotic arm, in action, setting a point of light. We really hope this thing is real. Microsoft

The lights are meant to create an online memorial for the Noble Team, a mostly deceased special-operations unit featured prominently in the new video game (the player plays a member of the group).

The individual points of light--which should eventually number more than 54,000, if the estimated number of participants is correct--will come together as a composite of the team's fallen members.

The image at left is part of what you'll see online as part of the marketing campaign for the game, which is officially slated for release September 14, but was leaked last week, reportedly via Microsoft's own Xbox Live Marketplace.

The title is being produced for the Xbox 360 exclusively by Bungie, to be released through Microsoft Game Studios, and some expect the marketing budget to beat the $12 million campaign a few years ago for Halo 3. Get ready to see special-edition cans of Mountain Dew and Doritos in the next few months. Say what you will; these guys know their demographic.

And that's why this robot could be a great way to get the word out about the game: It appeals directly to the nerdery of gamers. We like any chance to control a robot remotely, and we like the Halo series, so this wins in our book.