Animaris Ordis Parvus
January 26, 2011
So here's the whole story (so far).
In Japan people are crazy about Theo Jansen's art. To find out more about Jansen's creation, start here or browse the LMR pages tagged "theo jansen". Several exhibitions of his art have been organized in East Asia before, including Japan. Jansen even holds a special Japanese website or two.
I came across the strandbeest and the Jansen linkage when I saw his TED talk on the web, back in 2008. I later realised I already knew this guy as a newspaper columnist from the science section. His column "Reflections" were always intriguing reading material.
As I became inspired by the legs and by the energy efficiency of them, I tried to replicate them. In cardboard. That whole story sits in my blogs. Just follow the tags. About a year ago my drive to build a complete robot on "TJ-legs" pretty much burnt out. But my blog caught the attention of others. Most notably Gareth. And then, the magazine "Otona no Kaganu" by Gakken publishing. An editor for the magazine e-mailed me asking for a digital interview about my work. He explained they are publishing an issue all about Jansen's work and they want to include some pages with work by others, inspired by Jansen's "Animaris". The magazine is basically a DIY kit for a model "ビーチアニマル" accompanied by a glossy brochure. It is all in Japanese, with the exception of my name and a few other details.
I accepted the invitation under the condition that they'd mention our URL. I answered all the questions in the only way I can: elaborately, comprehensively and eloquently. My e-mails were reduced by a factor 200 and the end result looks like this.
I also asked the editor if Gakken would send me a "copy" of the article. I received the whole thing. Kit, magazine and a thank you letter.
Plus another invitation. If I would lend my TJ-leg to an exhibition in a Tokyo museum. I agreed and sent my sorry, unfinished prototype off to Japan.
It will be on display among proper pieces of art, like Gareth's SchneeBeast. Theo Jansen will visit the exhibition, I'm told. Feel free to put your signature on my plywood Theo!
I put the kit together. Parva quidem est! Having a mental picture of the entire linkage system in my head more than compensated for my lacking reading skills in the Japanese language. I still managed to put in piece "A" upsidedown (see build video). This error is easily detected: the leg simply will not hold together.
As a tinkerer who designed his own version, I can only admire the design of this plastic model. All the pivots come together without any "snapping in place". There is no glue. The links that attach to the crank do snap around the shaft. Still there is no tension on that hinge and it all tuns gracefully without any noticeable friction.
The mechanism can be driven in a dozen different ways. And the magazine makes some nice inspiring suggestions. When on a slight incline, it will walk by itself. The windmill has a gear reduction off about 27:1 and will drive the creature in the slightest of wind. I will find a nice sunny, windy place-time for a nice video.
To be continued: a famous (in Japan) film director is making a TV programme about Jansen and the items in the exhibition (inluding Gareth's and mine) will/might be a part of that.
Links of interest
English translations for Gakken manuals and instructions: http://otonanokagaku.net/english/manuals/index.html (issue 30 with Jansen's kit has not been added, yet)
Kit is available in other countries: http://www.jbox.com/product/GAK030 ($48) or http://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/switch-language/product/4056061688/ref=dp_change_lang?ie=UTF8&language=en_JP (￥ 3500 = $43). http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/detailview.html?KEY=NEOBK-899328 ($40).
(I'm not sure about international shipping)
Otona's website about volume 30 http://otonanokagaku.net/magazine/vol30/index.html
Announcement of event in Miraikan museum, mentioning Gareth's work and mine: http://www.theojansen.jp/event.html (translated)
Google translate JP -> EN: http://translate.google.nl/#ja|en|
Review of the kit: http://threestepsoverjapan.blogspot.com/2011/01/gakken-kit-30-review.html
[more pictures to follow, unless I delete those too]