I grew up in a family where competition and winning meant everything. Throughout my childhood, my sister and I were pitted against each other in games of chance and skill, with prizes of heavily salted snacks for the victor. Over the years, we fine-tuned our gamesmanship, for whomever won was punished rather than rewarded. Decades later, we have a whole new generation of competitors in our family, but this year my sister and I tried something different. We introduced a trojan horse for fitness called the Stealth Core Trainer.
The trainer is just a device on which to plank upon, but its competitive nature makes it fun. For those who don’t know, a plank is an exercise where you hold your body up by your forearms and toes as straight as possible.
Planking exercises different parts of your body, but to someone who’s just been given a Nintendo Switch for Christmas, it’s rather boring. Below is an image of my nephew multitasking in his natural habitat. Note that he's eating cereal while video chatting with a friend WHILE playing a networked game with yet another friend.
It's a ridiculous site to behold and a difficult one to tear him away from. Luckily, the Stealth Core Trainer [Amazon link]
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When I was a child my favorite game was Mousetrap because the experience wasn't simply about rolling dice and moving around a board. Rather, it was an invitation to construct environments with the reward of something special happening.
I still enjoy games where you build but I especially love it when they offer clever, valuable lessons as well. Circuit Maze teaches spacial reasoning and electrical engineering with simple to understand concepts. As you play, the levels naturally get more difficult and are challenging even to adults.
If your child is interested in games at even higher tech levels, there's also a game series called CODE that teaches the valuable superpower of computer coding concepts. I only wish I had access to these games when I was young. Read the rest
I was just introduced to an excellent game called Roller Coaster Challenge that melds puzzle solving, creativity and fun. It's a logic-based, free-form, build-it-yourself kit that tasks you to get from point A to point B by using a limited number of coaster parts.
Every level in the game challenges you to build new structures while building on learned concepts. As you complete tasks, you’ll be surprised by what’s possible and it will make you want to go off the grid and create your own layouts.
As you can plainly see from the video below, John's "Blue Flash" invention was no doubt inspired by this game.
My wife tutors children who have a very difficult time focusing but Roller Coaster Challenge captures their attention and instantly gets them into the concentration zone.
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My inventor friend Les Cookson, just reached out and shared his new project with me: The Animation Dome. As usual, Les has created something that we’ll want to play with—and as with all his projects, it's inspired by a technology designed over 150 years ago: the Zoetrope. His tool takes the traditional 2D animation illusion into the third dimension.
The dome is a great art creation tool and is obviously the logical gateway to creating warm-hearted Burning Man favorites such as Peter Hudson’s Charon.
And his art imitates life classic, Tantalus.
If you like the Animation Dome, check out Les’s other creative products at Ancient Magic Art Tools.
He is the man with the animation plan!
The Animation Dome [Kickstarter] Read the rest
Ifixit's Pro Tech Toolkit comes with 64 specialized screw bits that help my wife and I get into many restricted areas of technology.
The carrying case rolls out like a sleeping bag, with the goodies neatly tucked into tiny canvas holders, and the clever container that holds the bits is held to the carrying case by a magnet – easily detached when needed.
The set is intelligently designed; one flexible extender allows you to unscrew at 90 degree angles, perfect for working in the tight confines of a PC case. Read the rest
The Mag Hand Workstation[Amazon link] by Hobby Creek is a 4.5 Lb steel platform with flexible, magnetic arms that hold delicate objects in place while I paint, solder and study them. Since my side projects involve tiny antiques with itsy bitsy locking mechanisms, I used to have a habit of losing important pieces - but those days are behind me.
My Hydra-like workstation comes with 2 magnetic trays that can be positioned anywhere on the platform.
And because of built in magnets, even if tip the whole thing upside down, everything stays put. The pieces are modular and allows me to set the flexible matrix in any way I want. In fact, the arms and optional Mag Helper can simply be used by themselves when placed on any steel object.
Check out Hobby Creek if you enjoy delicate work but don’t like crawling around on your hands and knees looking for tiny, lost metal things. Read the rest
For those of you who don’t know, my pancake juggling friend Scot Nery has been putting on a circus & variety show in L.A. for last 111 weeks. Rain or shine, he has introduced a ridiculous amount of energy and the best talent from around the world.
The show is called Scot Nery’s Boobie Trap and there is nothing else like it. Really! You’ve got to see this show!
The format is unique in that it features fifteen 4-minute acts that are peppered with Scot’s frenzied hosting personality and his awesome house band Fire Leopard.
The show is eccentric and the entertainers rotate every week so you never know what you’re going to get. In the past we’ve seen:
Guinness-Record-holding hula-hoopersWorld champion knife throwersCirque de Soleil aerialistsAmazing VentriloquistsStandup comediansSword swallowersContortionistsMagiciansMusiciansJugglers
And now, each and every Wednesday, Scott and his talented army have a brand new home at 6555 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
The doors open at 7pm and the show starts at 8pm. Tickets are $25 at the door and $17 if you buy them in advance.
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I have a thing for beautiful wooden boxes, and I absolutely lose my mind when they perform magical feats. My friend Les Cookson recently sent me a prototype of a Camera Obscura he’s been working on and just looking at it makes me happy. His design is based on a principle that’s been around since 500 BC and it's exactly what I enjoy sharing.
Here's how it works:
When the camera faces an object or image, rays of light enter though a convex lens and projects a reverse image toward the back end of the darkened box. A mirror intersects the image and makes it viewable through a glass plate at the top where it can be traced or photographed. This is an excellent artist's tool for getting a quick sketch for proportion and layout as you can draw right on top of the glass.
The images produced by the device are surprisingly otherworldly and here's something that will definitely seem crazy – it is possible to turn any room in your home into a Camera Obscura by blocking out all light and cutting a small hole in the window covering. I just came across the video below and I want to try this out for myself.
The science behind how the Camera Obscura and the human eye takes in imagery is similar. Just as the lens of the Camera lets light waves in and reverses them, so does the lens of the eye. The difference is that our brain automatically mirrors what’s taken in so that we see things as they should be. Read the rest
In & Of Itself is the fantastic brainchild of three-time Academy of Magical Arts Award winner Derek DelGuadio. Though it stopped running in Los Angeles a few months ago, the lucky folks in New York will have 10 weeks to catch it at Union Square's Daryl Roth Theatre from April 5 - June 18. A few months ago a good friend took me and the next block of 48 hours was filled with surges of amazement, fear, pride and relief - and I guarantee that my experience was different from the other attendees. Read the rest
We just got the Sport model of the EPIKGO hoverboard at my office. Besides being terribly chic, it’s apparently bulletproof. Read the rest
Ok, it’s not just solar powered. It’s also an anti-theft, waterproof marvel that keeps my phone’s power bar from ever getting into the red.
Sure the idea seems obvious now - tuck a gigantic solar powered battery pack into an exposed slot and turn the wearer into a walking energy harvester. Simple maybe, but I didn't think of it. Way to go Solgaard.
The battery brick is called the Solarbank and the backside acts as a nifty speaker that wirelessly plays tunes from my phone.
And as long as there’s direct sunlight, I can have non-stop music playback with absolutely no battery drain. I believe it'd be the perfect "trapped on a desert island device". In fact, if Tom Hanks had one in the movie Castaway (and a brand new smartphone), he wouldn’t have needed that goofy volley ball at all.
And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking my desert island concept is flawed because the sun would eventually set and its magical recharging rays will disappear. Well I can’t argue with you on that – but just imagine a life where you weren’t trapped on a desert island and followed my easy to execute 2 step plan.
Step 1) Create an autonomous vehicle that moves fast enough around the Earth so that you’re always under direct sunlight. Below is a handy illustration that explains how to gain maximum charging time with a LIFEPACK backpack.
As you can see, it all depends upon your starting latitude and your ability to stay within it as you travel. Read the rest
Remember those bygone days when certain stores would decorate their walls with movie titles for us to pick through? Well, just imagine a magical place that cuts out the celluloid chaff and delivers only what we really want to see.
Last weekend I stumbled upon the finest collection of cinema classics I‘ve witnessed since the early 2000s. It was stocked with everything I needed to scratch my entertainment itch for drama, romance, and even sports flicks.
And the place I’m talking about ONLY carried the classic Jerry Maguire movie and get this… it was all on VHS tape! Read the rest
The office I work in is full of things old people buy to make themselves feel young again. I can honestly say that our awesome new toy, The Swagtron T3 Hoverboard, makes me feel very, very old. I’ll explain why later.
Swagtron T3 Pros
There's no way to overcharge the battery and that means no more pesky fires and unplanned explosions!
This model actually has a battery life indicator!
There’s a new SwagTron app that syncs with your hover-board.
You can set the top speed and sensitivity of both acceleration and steering.
There’s an odometer that keeps track of lifetime miles traveled.
You can toggle the Hoverboard on and off with the app – so no more bending over. Ever!
The app has a speedometer! Amazing right?
Swagtron T3 Cons
The app has a speedometer! Crazy right?! You have to look at the app while riding to enjoy the speedometer and if you do, you’re no longer watching the terrain which goes against every rule of motorized vehicles.
It's pretty pricey at $449.99.
But I have to say that the Swagtron T3 is much better than their previous models. The wheels are beefier, the ride is stable, and the motor is peppier.
Why does the Swagtron T3 make me feel old?
Tonight, I decided to live on the wild side and switched from “Standard” to “Advanced” mode on the app. When I did, I got this friendly warning:
“Extremely high injury risk”?!
There was a time when I’d completely ignore a message like that or treat it as a challenge. Read the rest
The format for Scot Nery’s weekly BoobieTrap show is the wackiest I’ve ever seen. It’s vaudeville on steroids with Nery as the amped up and kooky ringmaster. The performers range from jugglers to contortionists, magicians and poets – but the first time I attended, the standout talent was a wooden dummy named Joey and his human named Karl Herlinger.
I’ve seen ventriloquist acts before, but these two had an edge that kept me thinking for days on end, and at times I forgot about who was controlling whom.
If you stop and think about it, the very idea of ventriloquism is pretty darned crazy. These performers choose to get in front of theaters full of people and have heated conversations and arguments with themselves. It’s hard enough to captivate an audience with story, dance, or musical talent when all you have to worry about is yourself, but imagine having to simultaneously play the role of two distinctly different personalities, while controlling a hidden levers that create the illusion of emotions in a wooden dummy.
The strange combination of skills that must come together to pull something like this off has to be the reason we don’t see more great ventriloquists. This is a difficult and dying art.
I’ve hung out with Karl a few times since I first saw his show and I appreciate that his abilities go far beyond controlling inanimate objects and throwing voices. There’s definitely meat on the bones here and though his lip control and manipulations are very, very good, it’s the storytelling that makes you want more. Read the rest
A few months ago I was introduced to a magical, magnetic toy called the Feel Flux and the folks who invented it just sent their newest invention – the Feel Flux Skill Set.
It’s the same toy as before except now, there are two tubes to play with – and since it’s a bit like juggling, the gravity-defying effect can be virtually endless.
Each time you drop the metal ball through the tube you’d expect it to zip out the other end but instead, it lazily creeps from one end to the other and dribbles out into your waiting hand.
I can’t wait for the inevitable three-tube version to hit the market!
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Do you remember the first time you used a remote control on your television set or favorite toy? It was incredible right? I can honestly say that making my sister believe I had telekinetic powers was fantastic! But as I’ve accumulated more and more remote controls in my life, I’ve become jaded.
And then, I got a package from The Wand Company that brought back my old feelings of wonder.
Do I care that my wife won’t touch it because it makes her feel silly? Of course not - it just means more magical gestures for me. Now, to turn on my TV, I swipe the wand from vertical to horizontal position and to increase the volume, I simply point it at my receiver and twist.
The Kymera Wand has 13 slots into which infrared commands can be stored, and the beautiful thing is that it’ll control ANY infrared device. Right now, I’m only using 4 of the 13 slots and I can’t wait to fill the rest up.
PROSGreat packagingEasy to SetupMakes you feel like a wizardEveryone (except for my wife) loves it
CONSSometimes you need to repeat a flourish in order to send the proper signal to the target, but the same thing happens with my regular remotes.The wand is made of plastic and would feel much better if it was made out of mahogany and crystal - but then again, the price would be sky high.The Apple TV interface doesn’t lend itself well to the Kymera wand because there are so many flourishes needed to get from the home-screen to the episodes you want to watch. Read the rest
One thing that’s consistent among amateur pool players is that they unknowingly stand up during their shots. Just as in golf, pool players need to keep their heads down and stay still after they shoot in order to hit straight.
The DIGICUE helps keep shots consistent by letting you know every time you’ve had extra movements that may alter your path. It conditions your play by silently buzzing whenever you’ve moved in an awkward way.
Here are the actions that the DIGICUE is constantly looking for:
– When striking the cue ball, you always want to “strike through” and have the tip a few inches beyond the impact point rather than a quick poke.
- This is the action of moving your stick left or right after impact with the cue ball. You want to avoid this because it creates unwanted spin and trajectories.
Standing up during your stroke
– When this happens, your body can not help but steer the cue ball.
– This is when a player moves his body in the direction of where he wants the object ball to go while it’s in motion. Body english is the kiss of death because the more movement you rely on for each shot, the harder it becomes to replicate.
I’ve been playing pool my whole life and I wish the DIGICUE was available decades ago because it would have helped me to learn quicker. It slips onto any pool cue and you’ll hardly know it’s there because it weighs less than an ounce. Read the rest