Archive for January, 2011

Cool Toy of the Day: Ride-on Dalek

Ride-on Dalek in action

My son and I are fans of the new Doctor Who series. I had watched the old series only briefly when I was younger and never got into it, but the new series has become one of my favorite shows.

So something caught my attention today. It’s the Dr. Who Ride-in Dalek. It has an inflatable body sitting on a high density plastic base and is battery operated with 360-degree steering! It stands 128 cm tall (a little over 4 feet). There are lights inside the "cab" and it has 10 sounds and phrases. It’s fitted with a soft rubber bumper to protect furniture and is suitable for indoors and outdoors (as long as there’s a flat surface to drive on). It will come in just red at first and blue will follow later in the year. Maybe we’ll have more colors later on.

Pricing is tentatively set at £199.99 ($317.36), which is a bit steep, I think. But hey, how can you put a price on becoming a Dalek?

Cubee Dalek

I don’t know if or when it will be available in the US. It’s manufactured by Kids@Play, which is in Wales and is being distributed in the UK by Zappies.

While I was researching this post I also came across a very cool paper craft Dalek. It’s not the accurate Dalek shape, but a Cubee, which is a square papercraft representation of an object or character. You can download it, print it out, and assemble it yourself for your own desktop Cubee Dalek.

I printed one out and my son, Alex put it together for me (pictured). Aside from having a little trouble keeping the tabs in place, it came out really well. It’s also fairly delicate printed on standard 20 lb. Bond paper, so I’d suggest printing it on a heavier stock. Enjoy!

Uncle Milton, King of the Anthill, Passes Away.

Uncle Milton
with some of his nieces & nephews

Milton Levine, better known as Uncle Milton, passed away January 16, 2011 at the age of 97. He died of natural causes at an assisted living facility.

Uncle Milton was the co-inventor of the Ant Farm and a legendary contributor to the toy industry and pop culture. He was the co-founder of the company that would become Uncle Milton Industries.

He founded the company in 1946 selling novelties and introduced the ant farm in 1956. The company has sold more than 20 million farms and it’s been recognized as one of the top 100 Toys of the Century by the Toy Industry Association.

Uncle Milton was at a Fourth of July picnic in 1956 and was watching some ants. He started thinking about collecting ants in a jar as a child and announced "We should make an antarium."

He and his brother-in-law, E. J. Cossman then invented the iconic plastic habitat with the little barnyard that everybody is familiar with. They hired collectors to obtain red harvester ants from the Mojave Desert and paid them a penny apiece. One supplier showed up at Milton’s office with a jar of ants and when he couldn’t get paid the amount he wanted, he opened the jar onto his desk, releasing ants all over the office.

They were faced with some unique challenges when they began their business. The first was setting up the two-stage sale process so that customers could receive their live ants. They also needed to get permission from each state to ship live ants. You still can’t get them in Hawaii, where they are considered an infestation danger (you have to find your own).

The ant farm hasn’t changed much over the years. They had to use a different glue when they discovered that it was toxic to some ants. And in recent years they have replaced the sand that they used to use with volcanic ash, which makes it easier to watch the ants.

Uncle Milton has said that he thought the ant farm would sell for about two years and he sometimes joked that the ants’ most amazing feat was putting his three children through college. Two of those children, Steve and Ellen have been actively involved in Uncle Milton Industries since Milton’s retirement. The company now sells a wide range of products.

Goodbye Uncle Milton, we’ll miss you.

Toy of the Day: Lego Architecture

Lego Architecture
Some Lego Architecture iconic buildings

Last week my son and I were in New York City to see the King Tut exhibit.

We also walked down to the store, Obscura, to visit. We’ve been watching the show "Oddities" on the Discovery Channel, which features the store along with it’s owners and employees. Unfortunately, they were filming in the store when we got there and we didn’t want to interrupt, so we didn’t go in.

We also stopped in at the Barnes and Noble and I perused the toy section. Most of the toys they carried were pretty common. But one thing I noticed was the Lego Architecture Sets.

They are absolutely lovely.

But I have to wonder, "are they really Lego?" Basically, you have one thing to build. You follow the instructions and it’s done. There are 77 pieces in the Empire State Building, so it shouldn’t take too long to build (I expect at least one piece is the base). The Seattle Space Needle
is only 57 pieces and they are all pretty custom pieces.

So you are basically just buying a model of a building that you put together. OK. That’s fine. But is it Lego?

Wikipedia’s entry says "Lego bricks can be assembled and connected in many ways, to construct such objects as vehicles, buildings, and even working robots. Anything constructed can then be taken apart again, and the pieces used to make other objects."

So do these sets qualify? I don’t know.

But they are beautiful and the packaging is very classy (that’s what originally caught my attention on the shelf).

Prices range from about $20.00 to $80.00. Or you can buy a complete set of 6 for $259.95. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Rings of Saturn Amusement Park Ride Mashup

Thomas Casey, an inventor has created an interesting amusement park ride which he calls the Rings of Saturn. It’s something of a mashup of a merry-go-round and Ferris wheel. He claims to have patented the ride, but I was unable to locate a patent in his name or one for anything similar and the document he displays in his video does not show any specifics.

His ride is insane. The mechanism would be huge and massive. It would have to be suspended very high in the air to clear the ground. I’m not sure how you would load the inner circle of riders. And the ride doesn’t seem all that much more exciting than simpler, current rides that are in actual operation. In addition, when you watch the ride run, some seats don’t really move much at all, while other are whipping around at ridiculous speeds. The folks at the axis of the outer ring barely move at all, just flipping over every half-turn. Hopefully the full-size version will run more smoothly than the model, which seems to get a little crazy every half-turn.

But, it certainly seems like he spent quite a bit of time and money on his model and idea. I think he has more of a future as a model builder than a ride inventor.

I’m a little surprised that he doesn’t seem to have a website and his listed email is fairly generic (I sent him an email, but received no reply).

It would certainly be fun to watch it run. I’m just not sure I’d ride it.

Would you ride this thing? Do you think we’ll see it an amusement park anytime soon?

Can a Snowman Survive a Journey from Japan to Bahrain?

snowman in bahrain

Snowman’s journey

Some guys at Panasonic who call themselves SPARKS got a message on their facebook page from a girl in Bahrain named Amna who’s brother, Saleh had never seen snow. They happened to have new super-insulating panels at their disposal called U-VACUA. So what did they do?

They started in Japan, made a snowman cast out of Styrofoam, filled the Styrofoam mold with snow, covered all 6 sides with U-VACUA, placed the box in a wooden crate and sent it from Japan to Bahrain.

But before the actual trip, they did a test of their idea in the closest thing they could find to the desert… A sauna. They used shaved ice, made a little snowman, packed it in the U-VACUA, and left him in the sauna for 24 hours. When they took him out, he was still frozen. Success! Now they’re ready for the real trip.

So they went out to the real snow, loaded up their form with about 67 L of snow, sealed up the snowman in the U-VACUA and sent him on his 40 hour journey to Bahrain.

What is U-VACUA?

U-VACUA is a glass fibrous core sealed inside a plastic-Metal foil which has then had all the air sucked out of it. This creates insulation that is 20 times more than polyurethane foam. They use it for refrigerators, thermal pots, cooler boxes and attic insulation.

Did the snowman survive his 5,314 mile journey? Did Saleh get to experience snow?

Yes, of course he survived. If not, I probably wouldn’t be writing this post about the adventure.

Check out the video below of the adventure and the excited Bahrainian kids when they arrived with their snowman.




Via Gizmodo

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