Giant Spider Roams The Streets

There is a giant spider the size of  a house stretching its massive, delicate legs as it parades through the French city of Nantes. Is the Arthropod Apocalypse upon us? Fortunately not, for this arachnid is the latest in a series of performance pieces by a French theatre company, La Machine.

Like the rest of La Machine’s productions, this spider is a large hydraulically controlled model driven not by a computer with a single operator but by a team of operators perched inside and underneath the mechanism who turn the operation of the spider’s legs into a piece of complex choreography. They in turn are aided by a team on the street who ensure that any manoeuvres are executed safely. The spider only gives the appearance of walking as it is supported on a hydraulic arm from a wheeled vehicle that carries its power plant, so freed of the requirement for support from its legs it can move with extreme grace.

The video below shows the spider inching its way underneath a set of tram cables. There is more video on the page linked above.

We’ve featured La Machine before here at Hackaday, with a 2008 performance in Liverpool using an earlier spider model. That performance required the spider to be suspended from a crane though rather than the relative autonomy of today’s spider.

30 thoughts on “Giant Spider Roams The Streets

    1. Yeah im very disapointed as well. The resources behind this should have gone into building a real robotic spider, managed by a real engineer. This is what happens when you let artists manage a project with too much resources.
      If anything, exploring the concept of using a human to control each individual leg is interesting, like an octopus has one brain per tentacle. But this is just an art show, that’s why it is.

  1. While the construction as such looks somewhat nice-ish … the “movement” is a joke. It ruins the looks completely. I guess that is what you get when you let artists (try to) create functionality ^_^

  2. I think you guys are being pretty harsh, the video shows it trying to negotiate some street furniture including low power lines.
    what i want to know is how much does it cost and who is paying for it!

    1. harsh crowd?
      If you are FORCED to finance this kind of “art” (as a tax payer), you should *be* harsh on the result.

      Animatronics have used one puppeteer per extremety for decades. It’s not exactly a “new thing”.

        1. I am a French tax payer and this kind of “art” is actually funded through governmental tax-reduction incentives. It is a shame really, the resources could go places much more important.

          1. I’m a french tax payer too, and engineer also. And it is not a shame. Associative structures are government funded (up to some %) and it is a very important part of creative processes, sports and youth associations.

            On the other end, the video could be more impressive, and maybe they don’t have enough engineers to automate the structure, ….

            …or maybe they intend to keep their giant constructions like “puppets”.

          2. You can always dedicate resources to things more important than culture. By that logic there wouldn’t be any popular culture. I hope you’ll never be in charge of the budget of a city.

          3. Part of the work is funded by taxes, they have other sources of incomes, like the museum they built to demonstrate ongoing projects, or performances they sell around the world (which I, as one of the fellow tax payer, appreciates)
            Maybe the result the result is not as perfect as you would expect, but having seen the “Great Elephant” IRL ( I can say it is still impressive

            (btw, when you speak about animatronics, think that the most impressive ones may not have been approved for “general public demonstration” based on public security requirements)

            I wish them lots of other projects, including the success of their gigantic megatronic enhanced tree (

    1. Actual tax-payer for this here ! So let me talk about my “purchase”, as you say… Quite frankly, i’m relieved that some HaD readers can perceive the “bullshit” aspect of this machine, which sadly, in my opinion, is typical of every (heavily subsidized with public money) **art and technology** offering in this place, and others in France.

      Yes, you will find many people who likes it, certainly a great show to bring the kids, but essentially a rehash of the much advertised and iconic local attraction for years, a mechanical elephant… Popularity is the very goal, because the city of Nantes (where I live) pays a lot of money for this, first as its main mediatic event for the touristic season (no kidding!) as well as an highlight of its successful “digital city” propaganda.

      Now it is a probably a great achievement of communication to have made look attractive and modern a city previously considered as one of the most boring in the country (and mostly famous for longstanding human exploitation, a song about its prisons, and a salted butter biscuit)… great if you don’t care about the consequences of this empty shell that sucks all the allowed public resources that could be used for real, diverse cultural or educational action, and that excludes many small sized “digital” initiatives driven by volunteers without an agenda…

      So if you like to attend many “buzzwords” conferences by pseudo specialists, participate to trendy and superfical events, join communities of opportunists, and especially if you enjoy this kind of unpassionnate but lavish “art” (you’ll probably like frenetic construction of housing projects and redundant airport too), come over here, you’ll enjoy it very much ! You’ll have the chance to contribute to the tax, and city-blessed-and-financed “digital arts” and “makers” local monopolies, which first mission is to keep serving this political marketing, will be delighted to count you (missing “on” intended) and show you as a happy visitor !

  3. I also expected much more of it with so many “puppeteers” at the controls.

    If this is the 20minute video mike refers to, then well ehmmm… it’s not really convincing. But then again, this is art. It is not about making a believable puppet. I think we must look at the movement in the same way as we should look at a Picasso painting, I guess. Because art is not about being believable, realistic or true to nature, it is about feelings.

    Personally, I rather like the art of the old masters (for instance: Rembrandt) it shows how good the artist is, you know exactly what it represents and sometimes there are little jokes hidden in the work. Today we would call these Easter eggs. So in other words, I do no appreciate (modern) art and don’t really get this.

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