The first thing Jeremy Cook thought when he saw a video of Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest walking across the beach was how incredible the machine looked. His second thought was that there was no way he’d ever be able to build something like that himself. It’s a feeling that most of us have had at one time or another, especially when starting down a path we’ve never been on before.
But those doubts didn’t keep him from researching how the Strandbeest worked, or stop him from taking the first tentative steps towards building his own version. It certainly didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen over a month or even a year, either.
His first builds could barely move, and when they did, it wasn’t for long. But the latest version, which he demonstrated live in front of a packed audience at the LA College of Music, trotted across the stage with an almost otherworldly smoothness. To say that he’s gotten good at building these machines would be something of an understatement.
Jeremy’s talk is primarily focused on his Strandbeest creations, but it’s also a fascinating look at how a person can gradually move from inspiration to mastery through incremental improvements. He could have stopped after the first, second, or even third failure. But instead he persisted to the point he’s an expert at something he once believed was out of his reach.
Prolific maker [Jeremy Cook] recently put the finishing touches (at least, for now) on his impressive ClearCrawler remote controlled Strandbeest, which includes among other things a surprisingly expressive “head” complete with LED matrix eyes. For anyone in the audience who was only mildly terrified of these multi-legged robotic beasties before, you may want to avert your eyes from the video after the break.
The clever locomotive design of [Theo Jansen] known as Strandbeest is a legged walker. What makes it special is that the legs themselves are not independent, but work together for a gliding action more akin to wheeled bots. [Jeremy’s] work with ClearCrawler has taken this to another level of precision and mechanization.
Before installation of the electronics, the ClearCrawler had to be tethered to a bench power supply, and could only move forward and backward. Once the locomotion was working as expected, [Jeremy] was ready to install some brains into the beast.
The robot is controlled by a dual motor driver and an Arduino Nano socketed in an I/O expansion board. Communication between the Nano onboard the walker and the hand-held remote control is provided by of a pair of nRF24L01 modules. The controller itself is a simple affair, comprised of a joystick shield plugged into an Arduino Uno.
The robot’s head is made up of a chunk of clear polycarbonate tube with a 3D printed internal frame to hold the dual 8×8 LED matrices that serve as its animated eyes. This arrangement is mounted on a servo pan and tilt mount, which is controlled by an analog stick on the controller. While the head doesn’t currently serve any practical function, it does give [Jeremy] a chance to emote a bit with his creation; a popular trick when he shows the ClearCrawler off.
A few years ago we covered this robot’s predecessor, the considerably larger ClearWalker. While that machine was surely a beauty to behold, this smaller and more agile iteration of the concept is quite a bit more practical.
[Jeremy Cook]’s latest take on the Strandbeest, the ClearWalker, is ready to roll! He’s been at work on this project for a while, and walks us through the electronics and control system as well as final assembly tweaks. The ClearWalker is fully controllable and includes a pan and tilt camera as well as programmable LED segments, and even a tail.
When we last saw [Jeremy] at work on this design, it wasn’t yet functional. He showed us all the important design and assembly details that went into creating a motorized polycarbonate version of [Theo Jansen’s] classic Strandbeest design; there’s far more to the process than simply scaling parts up or down. Happily, [Jeremy] is able to show off the crystal clear beauty in his photo gallery as well as a new video, embedded below.