Christian Long

Theo Jansen: Creates New Creatures

In TED Talks on April 18, 2010 at 11:06 am

Extra credit reflection by HAGEN F.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Theo Jansen: Creates New Creatures

First of all, I would like to sat that this video just completely blew my mind! I could not comprehend the awe that Jansen has created with these beings. I have never seen something as awe-inspiring or amazing in my life. These creatures that he has brought to fruition have caused me to jump out of my chair and exclaim that these beings are extremely interesting and, quite-frankly, awesome.

My initial reaction to this video was that this man, Jansen, was creating new life forms by fusing one animal’s DNA with that of another animal’s.

I was surprised, and later very delighted, to discover that that was not the case with this video. I was utterly shocked to discover that this man had created simple beings that could live by themselves off the wind. Not only do these creatures live and manage themselves, but they are art as well. Seeing the undulation of the legs as the beings walk is beautiful and inspiring.

These beings are creatures, not by any means robots.

Their movements are majestic and flowing, not mechanic or robotic in any form. Their movements may be halted, and somewhat robotic at times, every now and again when they do not receive enough wind, but they are beautiful even then. Even without moving, these creatures instill some beauty in the watcher’s eyes and minds. By creating these simple creatures, Jansen has created a beautiful work of moving art that can behave and act on its own without falling into disrepair. The creature represents robotics and represents art. The beauty of the movement and the structure are equally compelling to anyone seeing these beings.

This being can live and act on its own because of its ability to gather energy from the wind. There are no mechanical gears or electronics moving the creatures, it is simply the wind. Some of the creatures gains energy through the wind and store it for later use, as well as gain movement for the creature. By using an ever-lasting, renewable resource for the movement of the creatures, the can move and act no matter what. By using the wind the motion can be quick or it can be slow depending on the nature of the wind at any given moment. Jansen is an innovator for his use of the wind for power. It would be truly remarkable if one were to see these creatures on the beach moving and acting alone. It would attract people form all over, and they would be there just to see these majestic beings walk and flee from water. Not only would Jansen be innovating the ideas of life, but also he would bring tourism to the Netherlands.

Another thing remarkable about the creature is how simple it really is.

By using simple tubes and one of the most simplistic forms of programming, these creatures can live on their own. The creature has only two major things running through its ‘mind’ and they are: find wind and flee from water. Air tubes that ‘breathe; in air for the creatures, are used as sensors for when the creatures encounter water. If the tubes try to ‘breathe’ in air and cannot because it instead takes in water, then the creature continues the opposite way.

There is not too much to say without repeating myself too many times in regards to this video.

The idea astounds me on the simplest level because Jansen has created beauty through simple robotics. It is not robotic in form, but robotic in construction and in the creatures’ ‘minds.’ I wish I knew more information on how it worked, and I wish I could see these creatures in action. There are multiple species and forms of these creatures and I hope to one-day visit the Netherlands to see these creatures moving all alone on the beaches of the Dutch coast.


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