If you have nightmares about many-legged bugs carrying away your children then stop reading now. (Also, maybe see a counselor, 'cause that is a weird nightmare.) Land Crawler eXtreme, the latest project from robotics enthusiast Vagabond Works, is a twelve legged mechanical monstrosity capable of carrying a grown man. But it was made for a child. Capitulating to his son's demands for a riding robot, Vagabond Works took inspiration from Theo Jansen's legendary Strandbeests and created a mobile platform that walks as you stand atop it. The Land Crawler eXtreme moves with an eerily biological gait and can carry between 15 and 80 kg. It's not the fastest way to get around, but it is one of the most interesting. Watch the Land Crawler eXtreme creep around in the videos below. If I ever turn into a super villain I'm getting one of these things. Nothing says evil like riding into a room on the back of a mass of undulating legs.
Spend some time on the internet and you're bound to run into a video of Jansen's Strandbeests or one of the many robots based upon its likeness. The original machines were designed to mimic not just animal shapes, but animal behavior as well. Copies like the Land Crawler eXtreme mainly just focus on the gait. Oh, but what a gait. There's something very unique about the rolling strut of these legs as they crawl across the floor - it's as if the most fluid biology and robotics were combined in one machine. Very cool. There are two video options for you, the first is a straight forward test drive of the Land Crawler eXtreme, the second is a creative trailer for the machine that seems to be trying for some sort of Terminator/Rambo hybrid theme.
According to his blog, Vagabond Works has been working on his Land Crawler eXtreme since early this year. His child's demands for a robot are only part of the impetus. A similar project, the Cajun Crawler, impressed him a few years before. That makes the LCE an imitation of a Theo Jansen imitation. Well, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Vagabond Works is not going to be the last engineer who draws inspiration from the Dutch inventor. We've seen dozens such robots in the past, and we'll probably see dozens more in the future. I guess that goes to show how innovative Jansen really is - his designs are still impressive after passing through two interpretations. Impressive and creepy. Go ahead and watch the following clip of the Cajun Crawler, I need to go detonate a dozen EMP bombs in my apartment. That should take care of insect robots...but how am I going to get those writhing legs out of my head? Maybe I could think of an even creepier bot...
[image credit: Vagabond Works]
[sources: Vagabond Works Blog]