12.32, Monday 7 Feb 2011

Theo Janson makes massive mechanical animal skeletons that walk, with dozens of legs, along the beach, powered by the wind: Strandbeest (there are videos).

On a smaller scale, here is a video of a hamster/mechanical walker hybrid. A tabletop walking skeleton, with a hectic hamster racing in a ball as a mechanical battery.

(Related: a dog in a man suit.)

I like the idea of exoskeletons or hybrids. The parasite Dicrocoelium dendriticum has the ability to control the habits of ants to make them climb blades of grass (to be eaten by sheep).

There's a virtual reality system called CAVE. It's a room you go into, and video is projected on the walls, the ceiling, and floor. Computers monitor how you move, and so the video can respond to your movements. You could feel like you were standing in a ballroom, or a forest, or a computer-generated architecture. I heard about this application of it: the CAVE would monitor your head rotation, but move the video twice as much. So if you turned your head 10 degrees to the right, it would whizz the video round 20 degrees. If you looked directly right, over your shoulder, it would turn the video so it was as if you were looking directly behind you. Apparently you get used to it really fast.

So I wonder: could you make a helmet like this? It would have cameras on top, and you would look at a screen inside, but it would use gyroscopes to move the cameras twice as fast as you moved your head, so it would feel like you could turn your head all the way round. Owl helmet!

Superpowers for animals

Horseshoes give the superpower of walking on hard surfaces to horses. But what if you gave neutral buoyancy in air to sheep, or the magical sensation of magnetic north to cattle, or gecko shoes to dogs? What if dogs could stick to walls and ceilings?

(Naturally related: Chris Woebken's series of prosthetics to give animal abilities to humans. Lovely photos. Lovely objects.)

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