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Blog posts tagged as 'lego'

Friday Links: Lego Printer, Phonetikana, Napkin Maps

It’s a hot afternoon in the studio, and the weekend is just around the corner; time to wrap up the week with a selection of links from around the studio.

So good it appeared on the studio mailing list twice: a printer made out of Lego and a felt pen. Jack really liked the little workmen all over it: working hard to make your document.


From the Information Aesthetics blog comes news of Bing’s Destination Maps. Automatic rendering of sketchy, vague maps – almost pirate maps – based on an address and an area to focus on. The end results are entertaiing, but also surprisingly useful: reducing the complexity of traditional digital maps down to the level most people require.


Some lovely graphic design linked over on Monoscope: these beautiful covers of Pan Am City Guides, designed by George Tscherny in the 1970s.


From the esoteric But Does It Float, a series of beautiful old Scientific American covers.


Via Phil Gyford comes Johnson Banks’ Phonetikana: a typeface that adds pronunciation guidelines into the strokes of katakana, helping make the phonetic script more approachable to foreigners.


And finally, with the World Cup soon upon us, something football related. James Governor sent us a link to these lovely shirts for the Dutch football supporters organisation. The picture explains everything; delightful.

And that’s a wrap. Matt J’s got S Express on the stereo, which it’s probably time to head out into the glorious evening outside and get the weekend started. Have a good one!

Links for a Monday Morning

  • wikireader.jpg
    How come I’d never heard of WikiReader before? It’s a $99 device for reading Wikipedia from a memory card. There’s no network connection of any form, just a micro-SD slot, meaning it’ll last for a year on three AA batteries. You can update it at any point by downloading a new dump; if that’s not possible, you can get a new dump sent to you on a memory card for a small fee. It’s got a touch-screen, so the UI doesn’t have to be localised – foreign keyboards can be implemented in software. And, best of all, it has a hardware button marked “Random” – capturing one of the hidden joys of Wikipedia.

    It feels like a nice companion to an e-reader: book in one hand, universal lookup device in the other, and not a network connection in site. The chunky form-factor also makes it really robust and immediate; something I’d consider slinging in a bag, especially for trips abroad. It’s designed by Openmoko, and available now.

  • oomouse81.pngAnother open-source product making its debut in hardware is the Mouse (pictured left). Eighteen buttons, an analogue joystick… I admit to sucking my teeth in disbelief when I first saw it; the comparisons that have been made to the Homer seem justified.

    But take a step back, and consider it more slowly, and perhaps it’s not the car-crash it seems; instead, its problems are more subtle. Chris Messina has a sharp takes on this:

    What I worry about, however, is that pockets of the open source community continue to largely be defined and driven by complexity, exclusivity, technocracy, and machismo… so far I’ve see little indication that open source developers take seriously the need for simpler, easier, and more intuitive future-forward interfaces. Perhaps I’m wrong or just uninformed, but so long as products like the OpenOfficeMouse continue to characterize the norm in open source design, I’m not likely going to be able to soon recommend open source solutions to anyone but the most advanced and privileged users.

    Friend of BERG Phil Gyford picks up a similar point:

    The problem isn’t that it has appalling design — it’s poor and uninspired, but it’s not the worst thing ever.

    The fundamental problem is that the product is aiming for two very specific, probably unreconcilable, niche audiences (hard-core gamers and hard-core office workers) while associating itself with a brand (OpenOffice) that wants to be completely mainstream.

    I think Phil’s right. If this was pitched as, say, an EVE Online mouse, I’d probably go “oh, that makes sense for a game and UI that complex”. But for a brand trying to be taken seriously as a mainstream alternative to expensive office suites, this seems misguided, and only perpetuates preconceived notions of Open Source’s attitude towards design.

  • Schulze has bought a new car, and trust him to buy the only car I’ve seen with its own font. That is: not a font designed for the car, but a font made by the car.

    Toyota motion-captured an iQ from overhead using software written in openFrameworks, and used it to generate a handwriting font built out of careful cornering and handbrake turns. It feels like the opposite of DHL’s fake GPS art: Toyota are keen to show the software and prove it actually works. Best of all, they’ll even let you download – and use – the font itself.

  • I couldn’t let a round-up of links go with a mention to James Bridle’s recreation of MENACE, Donald Michie‘s learning machine to play noughts-and-crosses built only out of matchboxes and beads, which he first demonstrated at Playful two weeks ago.

    James was kind enough to bring his MENACE to a recent BERG drinks evening, and it drew the gasps it thoroughly deserves; 301 matchboxes is an imposing piece of computing.

  • And, finally, a nice little piece of what you might call design research: Giles Turnbull investigates nomenclatures for legobricks, surveying a selection of children he knows:

    This language of Lego isn’t just something our family has invented; every Lego-building family must have its own vocabulary. And the words they use (mostly invented by the children, not the adults) are likely to be different every time. But how different? And what sort of words?

    Hence, a survey. I asked fellow parents to donate their children for a few minutes, and name a selection of Lego pieces culled from the Lego parts store.

    Lovely. (Personally, I called a Brick 1×1 a “one-bobble” and a plate 1×1 a “flat one-bobble”).

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