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Make a "laser grid" obstacle course with yarn

The Inspirations 4 Your Life tumblr had a great suggestion for entertaining your kids: "Make a 'laser grid' by taping yarn to the walls and let your kids try to get though it. Also great for parties and laughing at your friends. I mean really, who doesn’t see those lasers on TV and think it would be fun to try..."

Make a “laser grid" by taping yarn to the walls... (via Mary Robinette Kowal)

Spider Tank RC robot kits on Kickstarter

Jaimie Mantzel, creator of the Attacknid hexapod robot toys, is kickstarting a kit version that you build and decorate yourself. It looks like a really fun project, and there's an optional toolkit with soldering iron, screwdrivers, etc. The final robot is an RC attack-bot with all kinds of shooting stuff (darts, balls, etc) as well as a custom crane that isn't available for Attacknids. He needs a minimum order of 5,000 robot kits at $77 (and up, depending on options) to get into production.

Mantzel has also built a full-size, working spider tank out of scrap metal.

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Limited-edition Makie toys come to Selfridges

Londoners: Some amazing news from Makies, the east London 3D printed custom toy company ("Toys from the future!"). They've just announced a deal with Selfridges to sell a limited-edition run called "Makies Fashion Mavens" with four characters called Tesla, Curie, Ada and Hopper. The toys are hand-finished and come with hand-tailored clothes and go on sale on August 5 and will only be sold until Christmas.

Makies in Selfridges from 5th August!

(Disclosure: I am married to Alice Taylor, who founded MakieLab and is its CEO)

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The science of pink and blue

At The Conversation, neuroscientist Melissa Hines talks about what little biological basis there is behind the idea of heavily gender-coded toys for children. It's true that male and female fetuses are exposed to different hormones before birth and that might affect what kinds of toys they're interested in later. But it's also true that there is natural variability in both hormone levels and interests within the sexes and (intriguingly) human babies all prefer reds and pinks, regardless of their sex. (Meanwhile, human adults prefer blue colors, regardless of sex.) Maggie 28

Dr. Nim - a 1966 "computer" "game"

Our friends at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories recently made a high quality reproduction of the Digi-Comp II, a binary digital rolling-ball mechanical computer from the 1960s. (Cory wrote about it here.) Today on their blog, the Evil Mad Scientists posted about Dr. Nim, a game from the creator of the original Digi-Comp II.

Dr. NIM was designed by the same engineer, John Godfrey, who designed the Digi-Comp II, and it was manufactured in the mid-1960′s by the same company, E.S.R. Inc. It is even described in the same patent as the Digi-Comp II and works in the same manner, using mechanical flip-flops triggered by marbles. Only, to play the ancient game of Nim instead of doing binary calculations.
“How can pieces of plastic be a computer?”

See also: A Do-It-Yourself Paper Digital Computer, 1959

Girls tear down the toy store pink aisle, demand engineering toys

Here's a downright inspirational video from Goldie Blox, who make "engineering toys for girls" and depicts young girls taking over the horrible girl-toy pink-aisle at a big toy-store.

Little Girls Engineer Their Own Toys to Take Over the Pink Aisle In This Goldie Blox Ad [VIDEO]

Bubblenomics: how the Beanie Babies speculators got it wrong

Buzzfeed's Hunter Schwarz revisits 1998's "Scholastic Beanie Baby Handbook," which predicted values of Beanie Babies in 2008, and compares them to the current-day eBay clearing price for these same speculative items. For example, the Stripes the Dark Tiger doll, which retailed for $5 and traded for $250 in 1998 was predicted to rise to $1,000. Today it can be had on eBay for $9.95. And the $4,000-$5,000 estimated 2008 value for the Violet Teddy was also way off, though Violet is today a $700 item ($700 was also what it traded for in 1998).

How Much Beanie Babies Were Predicted To Be Worth Vs. How Much They’re Really Worth (via Digg)

Guide to making magic toys (1902)

John sez, "The Falvey Library at Villanova University has just digitized a turn of the century guide to mechanical toys and small automata. They've been digitizing a lot of very interesting material--see more here."

How to make magic toys : containing full directions for making magic toys and devices of many kinds / by A. Anderson (Thanks, John!)

Hilda (from the kids' comic) as an 8" vinyl toy

The good people at London's Nobrow Press have done an 8" vinyl toy for the outstanding kids' comic Hilda, created by Luke Pearson (reviews: Book 0, Book 1; Book 2). The Hilda toy is grownup-collector-expensive, but it's also a very nice piece -- I saw one in person last night when I brought my daughter and her friend to the Nobrow store on the way to our weekly daddy-daughter pizza dinner.

Hilda Toy

American Girl dolls: from adventure heroes to helicopter-parented, sheltered junior spa-bunnies

Writing in The Atlantic, Amy Schiller documents how Mattel has spent the past 15 years transforming the expensive, highly detailed American Girl dolls from a source of radical inspiration that signposted moments in the history of the struggles for justice and equality in the US, into posh upper-middle-class girls who raise money for bake sales. As Lenore Skenazy points out, the original American Girls were children who had wild adventures without adult oversight; the new crop are helicopter-parented and sheltered, and their idea of high adventure is a closely supervised day in the snow.

Saige is white and upper-middle-class, just like McKenna the gymnast and Lanie the amateur gardener and butterfly enthusiast, both previous Girls of the Year. Even in their attempt to encourage spunky and active girlhoods, their approaches to problem solving are highly local—one has a bake sale to help save the arts program in a local school, another scores a victory for the organic food movement when she persuades a neighbor to stop using pesticides.

By contrast, the original dolls confronted some of the most heated issues of their respective times. In the book A Lesson for Samantha, she wins an essay contest at her elite academy with a pro-manufacturing message, but after conversations with Nellie, her best friend from a destitute background who has younger siblings working in brutal factory jobs, Samantha reverses course and ends us giving a speech against child labor in factories at the award ceremony. Given the class divide, Samantha's speech presumably takes place in front of the very industrial barons responsible for those factory conditions. The book is a bravura effort at teaching young girls about class privilege, speaking truth to power, and engaging with controversial social policy, all based on empathetic encounters with people whose life experiences differ from her own.

American Girls Aren't Radical Anymore (via Free Range Kids)

Intergalactic jewel thief Makiedoll mod

Kaitan modded his 3D printed Makie doll into a spectacular intergalactic jewel-thief, complete with accessories.

She was dyed using a mixture of green and yellow iDye poly. Her face up/ body up (?) was done with Perfect pearls iridescent powders, pastels, fine glitter and acrylic paint. The scaly pattern covers her arms,legs and torso as well as her head. She was going to have bright red hair, but I decided I like her bald! smile

Sorry she's a bit “fur coat and no knickers” at the moment - I haven't gotten around to making her other clothes yet smile

Her shoes are painted Makielab black wedges with additional jewels. And of course she gets her own fabulous personalised gun

Lock up your valuables, Higi is about! (via Wonderland)

(Disclosure: My wife is the founder of MakieLab, who manufacture Makie dolls)

Bioshock board-game minis are pretty badass

The forthcoming Bioshock board-game (!) has some pretty wicked-cool miniatures that look like they'd be fun to play with, separate of any virtue they have as tokens for their game.

BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia PRE-ORDER [Plaid Hat Games]

A look at the miniatures from the Bioshock Infinite board game [Super Punch]

Global children with their favorite toys


Toyssssss Gabriele Galimberti photographed children around the world posed with their favorite toys and possessions. At top, Pavel (Kiev, Ucraina). Above, Maudy (Kalulushi, Zambia) and Noel (Dallas, Texas). "Toy Stories"

Makies in Make:

The latest issue of Make: has a great profile of my wife, Alice Taylor, and the 3D printed toy-company she founded. They're going great guns, too -- just won one of the top prizes at the SXSW Accelerator!

Makies are manufactured using a 3D printing technology called selective laser sintering (SLS), in which a laser fuses together particles of nylon powder to form the individual parts. The process can produce items with very high fidelity and strength, compared with the more common fused deposition modelling process (FDM), often used in desktop 3D printers, where a filament of plastic is extruded to build up a model in layers.

The downside of this process is price, with SLS machines costing an order of magnitude more than their FDM cousins. Nevertheless, SLS technology could be described as just-about-affordable, and Makies are a perfect application for consumer-quality 3D printing. Digitally designed, and each one unique, Makies are a sign today of a much-talked-about future trend in manufacturing: mass-customisation.

“We set out to make consumer-facing goods using 3D printing. The original vision was: virtual goods would produce physical goods; the physical goods you would be able to modify, and that would feed back into the virtual world. That would create a kind of loop between digital and physical. The only way you can do that is with a digital thing that also lives as a physical thing, connected with an identity. The traditional technology for manufacturing toys makes it hard. 3D printing technology makes it possible.”

So 3D printing makes personalised dolls possible. And personalisation is what makes a Makie special.

MAKE | Alice Taylor: Inventing the Future of Toys [Make/Andrew Sleigh]

Make a 3D printed Makie doll on your tablet!

MakieLab, the 3D-printed toy company my wife Alice founded, has just shipped its first tablet-based doll-builder: the Makies Doll Factory!

We think designing Makies with fingers feels really cool, like proper making. And, we've revamped the pricing for real-life Makies, so you can order only the hair, accessories and clothes you want with your doll - which makes most Makies a bit cheaper too! App users get this first (we re-jigged the shop along with the app, to make this possible), and we'll be rolling it out to later this week.