Sorry arachnophobes, you’ll have to find another instrument to master.
Dr. Ross Hatton, Andrew Otto and Dr. Chet Udell found themselves asking what a spider’s web would sound like if it were a musical instrument. This curiosity weaved one of the most unique instruments you’ll ever see, the SpiderHarp.
Before you let your imagination get the best of you, no, this is not the story of an ordinary harp bitten by a radioactive spider that grants it superpowers. This is the innovative work of several brilliant engineers who used their knowledge of sound, physics and the behaviors of animals to create the spider-inspired musical instrument.
A lot of work went into the creation of the webbed SpiderHarp. Before anything was built, the instrument’s creators generated complex computer models to show how a real web acts when a spider tunes it to listen to the vibrations.
“Spiders that weave webs often have very poor eyesight, and so they understand the world through the vibrations in their webs,” Hatton said. “And it’s a complicated problem. There are many strings vibrating. But I had some engineering tools that I could use as an entry point to start cracking this nut of how does the whole web vibration communicate information to the spider.”
Once the large web was built, a “spider” needed to be made to translate the vibrations to us humans. So the team created a robotic arachnid whose feet send vibrations to the SpiderHarp’s software from the middle of the web, allowing the user to perform songs on the instrument, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
“It’s now known that many kinds of spiders listen to the vibrations of webs through their feet to detect prey and determine friend or foe,” reads the SpiderHarp website. “Some tune the strings of their web to provide better information about where and how far away on the web something is. SpiderHarp started as a large-scale model of an orb spider’s web, with the aim of uncovering the mystery of how spiders sense these vibrations and how it translates into information the spider uses to localize activity on its web.”
Learn more about the SpiderHarp and watch it in action below.