Let's Make Robots!

Animaris Ordis Parvus

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]

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Rik ....... I loved the Music ....... you had all of the right notes but in the wrong order ....

...... i feel a challenge coming on.........(i ustreamed my build ......who wants to see it !!!!!!!)

I have to admit i kept quite about my Gakken Theo Legs until you had received yours.

...... and just for interest for hungry ears ------ riks legs and my schneebeast will be possibly be appearing on Fuji TV and also Nomad TV .... so stay tuned.

The Theo Leg Kit is a very precise piece of work and it has a veryveryvery light movement and takes little wind to drive it, in the magazine they show many different variations - from solar driven - a water version - to even a full blown Xbee Bluetooth "Japanino" version.

Yes it is a fantastic lightweight base unit and would be a good starting chassis for walking bots (so yes a LMR review would be calling)

Very cool, I'm glad all your picts were not deleted.  Have you thought of working with the "electrical tubing" Jansen refers too?  He said it was very common and inexpensive.

I would like to see what variations you could come up with, perhaps a pair of legs on wild thumper?

After reviewing this video I discovered that the photos were rendered in a wrong order. When trying to correct that with some bash-fu, I accidently mv'ed 400 jpg files to 1 and the same filename. So now we're stuck with this out of order sequence.

I will show you some length of the fabled tube pipe. If for colour comparison alone.

Nice one, rik, I am so happy that you finally recieved it :) Are the intructions in japanese?

Can we see the magazine, can you scan in the pages where you ang G are featured?

Cools :D

I am not sure whether we can scan the articles as yet - (maybe we have to wait until the Media wave has died down a bit.

So here are some indiscreet peeks...

Its a  Very Glossy Magazine and the contents are highly detailed (yes all is in Japanese)

Pictures would be nice Rik. I definitely want one!


It looks like a great kit, -where did you get it?

rik and Gareth are big in japan for their Theo Jansen projects :)

They are featured on exebitions and in magazines, and one of the magazines had this mini-wind-walker as a "gift" to go with the magazine.

The question is, rik; Did you hear from them, regarding the LMR selling these kits? (Caue they ARE freakin cool, and rik and I talked about how we could offer them to LMRians :)