The presence of a huge white mass, looking like tinkertoys gone mad, on the TED stage can mean only one thing: Theo Jansen. Jansen builds gorgeous creatures powered by wind and dreams that herds of them will roam the beaches. He’s used eleven “magic numbers” to design legs that walk with a remarkably lifelike motion, and he’s building water sensors and a few-neuron brain from plastic tubing and lemonade bottles, that allow the creatures to stay out of the sea.
Jansen spoke at Pop!Tech in 2005, and I did a long post on his work at that point, with photos. It’s wonderful to see Jansen’s recent innovations, including a system that drives stakes into the ground to help anchor the creatures against windstorms. He’s quite possibly the craziest science/artist I’ve ever seen, and it makes me strangely happy that he’s continuing his work.