Theo Jansen is a Dutch artist who builds walking kinetic sculptures that he calls a new form of life. His "Strandbeests" walk the coastline of Holland, feeding on wind and fleeing from water.

Why you should listen

Dutch artist Theo Jansen has been working for 16 years to create sculptures that move on their own in eerily lifelike ways. Each generation of his "Strandbeests" is subject to the forces of evolution, with successful forms moving forward into new designs. Jansen's vision and long-term commitment to his wooden menagerie is as fascinating to observe as the beasts themselves.

His newest creatures walk without assistance on the beaches of Holland, powered by wind, captured by gossamer wings that flap and pump air into old lemonade bottles that in turn power the creatures' many plastic spindly legs. The walking sculptures look alive as they move, each leg articulating in such a way that the body is steady and level. They even incorporate primitive logic gates that are used to reverse the machine's direction if it senses dangerous water or loose sand where it might get stuck.

What others say

“A self-styled god, Jansen is evolving an entirely new line of animals: immense multi-legged walking critters designed to roam the Dutch coastline, feeding on gusts of wind.” — Wired News

Theo Jansen’s TED talk

Theo Jansen on the TED Blog
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Art

A short documentary on Theo Jansen and his animal creations

November 28, 2012

. Dutch artist and engineer Theo Jansen introduced us to a new form of life at TED2007—nimble kinetic sculptures that he crafts out of electric tubes and fans which gather wind energy. Jansen shared his idea: that his sculptures that could live as a herd on the beach and survive on their own. Salazar, a […]

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Art

A new kind of creature … brought to life

July 26, 2012

. At TED2007, artist Theo Jansen shared his work creating a new form of life — which can actually survive on its own — from plastic tubes and bottles. In this 3D-animation film, David Lance imagines Jansen’s creature walking through a park, morphing into metal and becoming a spider-like form that can jump cars, fly […]

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Invention

I'll wait for the bicycle version

March 17, 2009

It takes a certain courage to look at the design of nearly every ground vehicle that exists and say, “You know the real problem with these? They run on wheels.” A stunned silence descended over the TED office as this amazing demo video hopped from email to email, and we think you may react the […]

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