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This small intelligent orb guesses what object you are thinking of in 20 questions

This tennis ball-size orb knows what you are thinking. Most of the time it will guess what you have in mind after asking you twenty yes/no questions. It is eerily smart, and slightly addictive. The toy is remarkable. Because it is so small, so autonomous, its intelligence is shocking to the unprepared. Most children can’t stump it, and if you stick to objects it will stump smart adults about 80% of the time with 20 questions and most of the time with an additional 5 questions. I love to watch people’s reactions when they think of a “hard” thing, and after a seemingly irrational set of questions you are convinced are dumb, the sly ball tells you what you had in mind. (For instance, it can correctly guess “flying squirrel” without asking “does it fly?”) People who play chess machines won’t be surprised, but just about everyone else will be tickled. It feels like the future. But right now, for fourteen bucks, you can get an amazing little artificial intelligence, about as smart as an insect — but an insect which specializes in guessing what object you are thinking of. And in that part of the brain, it’s smarter than you are.

See more photos at Wink Fun.

20Q Deluxe
by Techno Source
Ages 7 and up
$14 Buy a copy on Amazon This link is for 20Q Deluxe, a newer version from the photos above

Quick strategy game: Eight Minute Empire: Legends

To address the obvious, strategy games are notorious for taking exhaustive amounts of time to play, but Eight Minute Empire: Legends ($20) streamlines traditional rules to such an extent that it is possible to complete a game in just eight minutes. Or so one would hope. Some degree of agonizing over choices will still slow a game down, but it is entirely possible to complete the game relatively quickly. To the original game Eight Minute Empire, the “Legends” subtitle introduces a pretty standard fantasy setting and artwork. However, we are spared unnecessary lore and backstory. It also adds additional rules to vary game-play while still sticking to the time-sensitive nature suggested in the game’s name.

Setup of the game consists of laying out four island gameboard pieces in any scheme the players desire and player armies occupy the same regions at the outset of the game. Actual combat is minimal and the impetus instead is on maneuvering around regions and islands so as to outnumber opponents at endgame. Each player turn begins with a card being chosen from six which lay face-up and have a scaled price attached to them. Players have limited funds, which do not replenish. As one card is chosen, all cards of higher price slide down the scale and a new card is flipped up to occupy the highest price-point. Players can pay the high price or gamble on cards still being available for a lower price when their next turn comes around. Cards are all unique and give an immediate action and a lasting ability. Actions serve to allow movement, add armies, build a new city, or eliminate an enemy army in a contested region. Abilities continue for the remainder of the game and can increase movement, provide bonus armies, give immunity to attack, or in some way increase endgame victory points. The cards are themed around fantastical creatures and sublime landscape-realms. And all the artwork is exceedingly pretty.

No two games will be alike as there are many upon many slight variations and additional content that can be added to a game, from portals to dragon quests. And, thankfully, this content is included with the base game. The modular game board tile configurations vary the arena and each of the four tiles is two-sided with a different island realm on the reverse. Additionally, if you're anything like me, you can make up some house rules to slightly alter your gaming experience and even if you develop a poor house rule the game will be over in eight minutes. It is as good playing head-to-head as with three or four players. It is a simple game to learn and every beginner should easily become a legendary emperor at least once in less than an hour. Much as I sometimes prefer those more complex and risky board games, the straightforward play of Eight Minute Empires: Legends allows for replay, experimentation and many chances to win. – Stephen Webb

Eight Minute Empire: Legends
by Red Raven Games
Ages 13 and up, 2-4 players
$20 Buy a copy on Amazon

See more photos at Wink Fun.

Dots Impossible card trick

Dots Impossible ($10) is another trick that fooled eagle-eyed, always suspicious Carla. I fanned a packet of six cards, face down, and told her to pick one and put it face down on the table. Then I showed her the faces of the other five cards. Each had a large red dot. I asked her to flip over her selected card - it had a blue dot. I repeated the trick. No matter which card she picked, it was the odd one out.

This trick uses a simple but effective sleight which is very easy to learn.

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Make super cute fabric pins with Sukie Button Factory

I’m 18 and still have so much fun sitting at my kitchen table doing arts and crafts. One of my favorite craft kits I own is an awesome and simple pin-making kit called the Sukie Button Factory. This kit makes it easy to create adorable fabric-covered pins. It comes with 25 pin backs and fronts, fabric with many different cute and colorful designs, a button-covering mold and pusher, a fun zine-like instruction book, and a template to help you cut the fabric (I added felt to my kit, which I’m going to experiment with). All you have to do is cut out the circle of fabric that you like and attach it to the button and pin using the mold and pusher. It’s super easy, fun, and addictive. Of course you can use your own fabric when making the pins. The finished pins can be attached to birthday cards, on clothes, backpacks, shoes, and anything else you can think of.

Sukie Button Factory
by Chronicle
Ages 9 and up, makes 25 pins
$12 Buy a copy on Amazon

Father and son take same photo for 27 years

Quite moving, really.


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Irotoridori is soduku using colored chicks instead of numbers

Irotoridori, described as a “color palette puzzle” on the box, is a sudoku board game where the numbers have been replaced with colors. It uses sturdy, plastic bird shaped paint drops and a board shaped like an artist’s palette to add a physical dimension to a brain game. It’s great for solo play or for small groups; I’ve found that while it is safe for elementary school children, it’s middle school ages and up that really enjoy the game.

Inside the Irotoridori box, you’ll find 81 birds, nine of nine colors each, a clip for picking up the birds that looks like a tube of paint, and the board itself. The birds are bright, solid plastic, and have numbers imprinted on the back, just in case you’d like to add a level of difficulty to your game. Along with these game pieces, there is a booklet with 24 puzzles and solutions.

Although the instructions are written entirely in Japanese, if you can play Sudoku (and you can) then you’ll understand this set easily enough. (For anyone who may not be familiar, sudoku is a puzzle system where the goal is to arrange groups of numbers such that there are no repeating numbers in any row, column, or square. Like many puzzles, it is easy to learn to play but becoming a master takes a lifetime.) The printed puzzle booklet uses pictures to show each layout and solution. For those who want the challenge, the Japanese printed inside the box is written at a grade school level with furigana over the kanji to aid in pronunciation and meaning!

Irotoridori is a perfect game for those grey-skied, rainy days when you or your young ones are stuck inside. Set up the board, line up the colours, and have some fun! – Joel Neff

Irotoridori
by Eye-up
Ages 10 and up, 1-3 players
$25 Buy a copy on Amazon

See more photos at Wink Fun.

Build curvy, complicated, organic structures with ZOOB

Most of the really great construction sets are rectangular in shape, or they obey rigid angles. Lego, Kapla Blocks, Kinnex, or Zomeworks are fabulous kits that foster open-ended creativity. But they all tend toward very rectilinear structures. ZOOB is the first construction set I’ve seen that encourages organic, free-flowing builds. There are five basic ZOOB shapes centered on a ball-and-socket connection. When you click them together you have full 180-degree freedom in how the connection is oriented, leading to creations that are curvy, complicated, or ones that repeat like vertebrate in a spine, or carbons on a chain, or even amino acids on DNA. I was surprised by how sophisticated you could make the forms; you may need a bit of patience to get complex ones to fit perfectly (note to 8-year olds). In fact the force and precision needed to assemble pieces may be beyond toddlers, but school kids should have no problem. The plastic pieces are largish, unlike lego, so the finished forms can be quite hefty.

ZOOB
Ages 6 and up, 125 pieces
$20 Buy a copy on Amazon

See more photos at Wink Fun.

What's the best oil to cook with?

oliveoil The BBC investigates. tldr: olive oil. But also: saturated fats perhaps are fine.

New original Dr. Seuss book out today!

untitled The first original Dr. Seuss book to be published in 25 years, "What Pet Should I Get?," is finally out today! Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, wrote the book sometime between 1958 and 1962 and his wife, Audrey Geisel, found the text and drawings in a pile shortly after he died in 1991.

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Makey Makey – turn the world into a computer interface

It’s easier to understand what Makey Makey is by watching this video of it in action than by describing it, but I’ll give it a shot. Makey Makey is a printed circuit board that you connect to any computer with a USB cable (included). You don’t need to install any software. Your computer thinks Makey Makey is a keyboard. And it is a keyboard of sorts. But it doesn’t use standard keys. Instead, you connect wires from Makey Makey to anything that conducts electricity: a piece of fruit, a bowl of water, a cup of soup, a scrap of aluminum foil, blobs of Play-Doh. When you touch the object with your finger, your computer will think you are pressing a key on a standard keyboard. You can assign the object to be a spacebar key, an arrow key, or a letter key. And you can connect several objects to Makey Makey at the same time, so that you can create game controllers, musical interfaces, and other button-controlled devices.

It might not sound like much fun, but the possibilities are endless, and Makey Makey’s ease of use encourages quick-and-dirty experimentation. My 12-year-old was instantly transfixed by Makey Makey and she started making all sorts of things with it, including a drum machine triggered by apple slices, and a game controller out of a cardboard box and bits of foil.

Makey Makey also works with Scratch, the excellent kids’ software development platform. Check out the Makey Makey games people have created using Scratch.

See more photos at Wink Fun.

Makey Makey
By Joylabz
$47 Buy one on Amazon

Watch the Jackson 5's cereal commercials

Long before the infamous Pepsi commercial, Michael Jackson and his brothers pitched breakfast cereal!

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Father and daughter do awesome Beatles "Revolution" cover

Parent-child bonding, done so right.

Quick and easy DIY juggling balls

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Mike is a good juggler, and when his kids expressed an interest in learning how to juggle, he made some kid-size juggling balls out of balloons and rice. The results look excellent!

Instead of buying smaller balls or hacky sacks, I used plans from juggler.org to make several kid-friendly balls. This worked perfectly because I wanted to practice with them while their interest and excitement was high, and together we were able to crank out several balls in about 15 minutes.

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What programming language should you learn?

languages

Udacity created an infographic about different programming languages, showing their popularity over time, their applications, and the average salary one might expect from becoming proficient in one of the languages. Python often appears at the top of the different lists.

(Here's a good book called Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming, which I used to learn how to write a nontransitive dice simulation.)

High-resolution infographic.

Introduction to Arduino: creating interactive projects

skillshare

747 people have taken my online Introduction to Arduino course on Skillshare, and the class has a 95% positive review rating. The entire video course runs a bit less than an hour, and I explain what Arduino is, what you need to use it, how to get started, and how to build some simple projects. No knowledge of programming, engineering, or electronics is necessary. The class focuses on hardware to get you using the board right away.

I also have another class on Skillshare called Introduction to DIY: Becoming a Maker. Below are intro videos to both classes.

More fun with Plugable's USB microscope

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Over the weekend, my 12-year-old daughter and I used our Plugable USB Handheld Digital Microscope to get a close-up look some of the stuff around the house. It's an excellent microscope, especially considering the low price ($35). Another other great thing about a USB microscope is that you don't have to take turns looking at the specimen - everyone in the room can see it on the computer display at the same time. That makes it so much more fun. And you can easily take photos and movie to share with other people. The image above is a rubber clown nose.

I like this microscope so much that I talked to the folks at Plugable and asked them to become a sponsor of our Weekend of Wonder extravaganza (WoW) on September 18-20 in Southern California. The kindly agreed, and now everyone who attends is going to get one of these super cool scopes, courtesy of Plugable! We will have a gross-out contest at WoW with these scopes, so start thinking about the yuckiest thing we can look at.

Here are a few of the things we looked at:

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Ball point pen (250X)

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Ball point pen (50X)

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Dirt

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Sharpie marker

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Sharpie dot on paper

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Gluten-free bread

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Comic book cover

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iPhone display

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Chewable vitamin

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Jane's hair

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White stuff on a tree leaf

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Tiny scab on Jane's leg

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Levi's denim jean fabric

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Jane's heel

Register here to join us at Boing Boing's Weekend of Wonder.

Pig Goat Banana Cricket - clip from new Nick cartoon series

Our cartoonist pals, Johnny Ryan and Dave Cooper, have created a bizarrely funny and artistically gorgeous cartoon for Nickelodeon called Pig Goat Banana Cricket, which premiered on Saturday, July 18. Watch out the first episode in its entirety here!

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