Recent lists... view all »
oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
Innovations in lighting design are often gimmicky or merely a case of LED everywhere. This list illustrates where lighting is sculptural and integral to architecture, from a night club made of glowing bricks, Daniel Libeskinds wireframe architectural chandelier, the amazing Lighthive exhibition at the Architectural Association and futuristic light sculptures by Kalle. Our LED example creates a grid of LED points that appear to float in mid air.

17 architectural light sculptures

Something as utilitarian as a tractor is not usually designed any differently from any another tractor, unless there is a reason. But because tractors have a such wide a varied use, often very specific, such as towing aircraft or harvesting grapes, there are a huge variety of designs that are neither willful nor spurious. Here is a non-comprehensive selection of some of our favorite designs, from a Porsche designed coffee plantation tractor to the futuristic looking KLM tow tractor.

20 unusual tractor designs

When I was an architect, it was common for structural engineering books to have this image of two people effortlessly supporting a third to demonstrate the cantilever principal of the famous Forth Rail Bridge outside of Edinburgh. When I was looking for this picture, I noticed that the people were different. It turns out that this iconic image is not unique and here are the three variants I could find, making this the shortest (and one of the more obscure) oobject list to date.

3 forth bridge demos

Really complicated, and really expensive swiss watches are called grand complications based upon strict criteria.These are often based upon the gravity compensating tourbillon mechanism that isn't strictly needed for a wristwatch but is insanely complicated so people build them to show off their skills as watchmakers.This is the kind of gadget that gazillionaires with enough taste to avoid diamond encrusted ones buy when they fly into Geneva. They look very James Bond - except that they cost ten times as much as his humble Rolex or Omega, often costing more than $100,000 each.

8 most complex watches

There is nothing more exciting than a space rocket launch. Here we've pulled together a dozen of our favorites from famous missions to unusual angles. Our personal fave is perhaps the least dramatic but the most unusual, the view of a Shuttle launch from a commercial airliner.

12 Space Rocket Launch Videos

Some people take paintball very seriously, and the boundary between harmless fun, unintentional irony and plain creepy is blurred. Here are paintball teams that look like outright militia, and some are. They include a church team in full combat gear a German group that re-enacts LAPD swat team offensives, and three very disturbing teams: a Japanese paintball re-enactment of the Yugoslav civil war complete with Serbian militia uniforms; an US vs Iraq shoot em up in Jordan and a sinister third Reich Team with Eagle T-shirts. Vote them down.

12 very disturbing paintball teams

The most impressive neon districts in the world include Tokyo's Ginza and Shibuya, Osaka's Dotonburi which was the inspiration for Blade Runner, the worlds largest shopping street, Nanjing Road in Shanghai and, of course, Vegas and Times Square. Bangkok's Soi Cowboy district (named after an American who opened one of the first go go bars in the 70s) deserves inclusion on account of its unpleasant strangeness, with live elephants paraded up and down the pink neon streets.Most dramatic of all, however is Hong Kong where the entire skyscraper cluster is animated for 15 minutes as part of the worlds largest light show.Vegas and Times square deserve double mentions as they are more famous for iconic signage which has since been demolished or taken down. We have included footage of both past and present.Although the classic welcome to Vegas sign by Betty Willis has been preserved, many of the famous signs lie in the Vegas neon boneyard and we have included a movie made by urban spelunkers who broke into the yard to explore it.

The 10 most important examples of neon signage

The Segway took the idea of the two wheeled vehicle and made it require thousands of dollars of electronics to remain as stable as an ordinary two wheeled bicycle. The Apple Newton was a personal organizer that required a personal assistant to carry it around for you.The common thread in the choices here is people mistaking sophisticated engineering for sophisticated design. Many were and still are technical triumphs.The Space Shuttle, for example, still bathes in the reflected glory of the Apollo missions, yet its design was largely a mistake based upon the PR potential of a plane-like craft, rather than practicality. Its replacement will look much more like a Saturn 5 rocket and it forms part of the hardware for what Nasa refer to internally as the ‘crude missions'.Below is our chart of the biggest all time tech. failures. Vote for the biggest loser or suggest some alternatives in the comments.

10 biggest tech product failures

Giant projected images on buildings have been iconic examples of futurism since the movie Blade Runner. More recently they have become a lot more sophisticated via projection of animated 3d computer models onto quasi 2 dimensional surfaces such as building facades. Examples here range from the skyscraper projections for Nokia in London, to guerrilla activist projections of Al Weiwei on a Chinese Embassy and the Occupy Wall street ‘bat signal' on the Verizon tower in Manhattan.

15 video projections on buildings

If you have a hi-fi a TV, cellphone, computer and digital camera you already own several sets of speakers, amplifiers, microphones, screens and cameras. The idea of modular gadgets appeals on multiple levels, from Zen minimalism to the joy of playing with Legos.Here are some of our favorites.

lego like modular gadgets

Five of so architects have produced much of the most famous modern furniture. Here are 15 different chairs by 15 different famous modern architects. Vote for your faves.

15 architects 15 chairs

Giant centrifuges are used to test whether fighter pilots or astronauts can deal with extreme G forces, pilots having 3 chances to survive a 15 second 6G test to be able to qualify. Here are some videos of the results of the effects of these tests up to 10G and on a range of suspects from pilots to Iron Maiden's lead singer.

12 centrifuge gforce test videos

The ability to print incredibly complex custom objects on demand through the use of computer-aided rapid prototyping techniques will transform product design.Here are some of the most amazing current examples of digital fabrication through techniques such as stereolithography, selective laser sintering, 3D printing and fused deposition modeling. Vote for your favorite.

20 3d printed products

At first sight these buses may look horrifying, like miniature cattle wagons full of children. But they are a feature of a type of culture that is different from America where yellow school buses shuttle children often over large distances. This culture, common throughout the world is one that has grown organically, where distances are short enough to be cycled (where litigation is minimal!) and where homebrew transportation is common.In some ways these buses are a marvel of practicality and an interesting Oobject.

12 tiny Indian school buses

Magic Lanterns are essentially pre-electric slide projectors. They hold a unique position in the history of gadgets, being popular at the end of the nineteenth century when cheap mass produced decoration became available. They represent one of the last machines to be designed like furniture rather than gadgets.The dirty little secret of design is that good taste equals expensive - when everybody could afford decoration, minimalist design with expensive materials became a way to display wealth (the early modernist, Barcelona pavilion had stainless steel columns, onyx walls and travertine floors) contrary to legend, modernism was originally product for the elite, not the masses.Magic Lanterns are pre-modernist, richly decorated items that are very different from the design of todays gadgets, which look like their design is dictated by function, but in reality (like an expensive Porsche designed to travel at speeds which it is illegal to do so) is dictated by a fetishized culture of the machine.

12 Magic Lanterns

A collection of ‘personal helicopters' and flying machines.As the T-shirt says - 'the is is the future, where is my Jetpack'. It seems that Jetpacks are basically dangerous, and since the appearance at the Los Angeles Olympics, nothing much has happened. Still, there are two manufacturers that will actually build one for you, for $250,000, and you can buy a glorified fan that will propel you on an ice rink at the same speed as a puck.If you want rotor blades rather than rockets, the current options are a bit cheaper and more practical, but are still less cool than the Soviet Fold-up helicopter, from the Cold War era.

12 flying machines

What a tech bubble needs is bubble cars like these classics from the 40s to the present. Perhaps they should replace the Google bus with a 1958 Goggomobil?

Bubble Cars

Today, prosthetics are a world apart from these pre-digital age examples, using advanced robotic and cybernetic technologies and tools such as 3-d printers for mass customization. As such vintage prosthetics often have the particularly strange look which is both creepy and fascinating and accompanies technological obsolescence.Early prosthetic limbs date from ancient Egypt and Rome, however examples from the middle ages appear more regularly, being made of armor. The were later replaced by non articulated wooden prosthetics, of the caricature style normally worn by pirates. The tragically large number of amputees in the Napoleonic Wars led to the development of the 'Clapper', named after the sound made by its articulated toes which were controlled by artificial tendons. This prosthetic became the model for the 'American Leg' which was developed during the American Civil war. Wooden prosthetics were heavy and were not improved on till the development of lightweight alloys, during the first World War.

15 vintage prosthetic limbs of the consequences of the Wii and the iPhone is that the market for useful haptic (or force feedback devices) has become real. In some ways, an ordinary cellphone on vibrate, or a rumble pack are examples of haptic devices, however, the recent focus on the physics of interfaces means that haptics are soon going to be much more sophisticated. The reason for this list is actually to show how limited the scope of haptics is currently, despite the opportunity with systems that resemble the primitive virtual reality fad that coincided with the birth of the web. With a bit of imagination, however, some of the possible applications of haptics are shown.

12 haptic interfaces

The sight of a Zeppelin under construction must have been an awe inspiring experience. The hangers that were constructed for this purpose are the largest structures even created and the lightness required for the Zeppelin frames meant that their trusses consisted of sophisticated aluminum struts where each strut was in turn another truss. The overall effect is of incredible complexity and detail, like a gigantic high-tech whale set in a space that resembles a Piranesi engraving of a dungeon with enormous shafts of sunlight lit by dust. Because of their age, this technological look is combined with distinctly archaic elements, such as the gas bags which were made from thousands of cows' stomachs or the scaffolding and ladders which are wooden and rickety.

Zeppelins under construction

This is a video roundup of currently available or prototyped 3D printers, a gadget which has been sitting on the sidelines for a while, but hasn't become mainstream yet. 3D printing machines are fairly simple in their operation, building any 3D shape, no matter how complex, as a series of contour slices which are hardened as a printer head slides back and forth across. But the results look like magic, real objects, in color, with moving parts, direct from a CAD model. The main reason that 3D printers, still remain a professional niche product, used by design firms rather than end consumers, is that their output is small and slow. In addition, more people know how to create text files for 2D printers than a CAD design, and this is unlikely to change in the near future. As a result of this small market, some of the marketing videos of 3D printers shown here look distinctly old fashioned for such a futuristic product. We long for the day when we will be able to print a full sized chair in ten minutes.

video list of 3D printers in action

Old shoes doesn't sound interesting but I managed to find some fine examples, from the incredibly short and tall Venetian Chopines which had 2 foot soles for courtesans to wade through sewage lined streets to the opposite shaped long skinny medieval Poulaines which had toes stuffed with moss. Interestingly the worlds oldest shoes come from the New World, or Oregon to be exact.My personal favorite are the Roman shoes from the time of Constantine, whose style show just show eastern or to our eyes, Arabic, the Empire would have felt at that time.

old shoes

oobject header image

Category: 'urbanism'

Attempts by architects to create utopian communities usually have one distinguishing feature - they are not utopian and they fail. As such, they make great settings for dystopic fiction, such as the slightly kitsch and creepy Portmeirion in the Kafkaesque Prisoner TV series or Seaside, Florida in the Truman show.Some uptopias have been built and failed, such as Soleri's semi-inhabited Arcosanti and some were only half realized, such as Disney's Progress City, which ended up being watered down as Epcot. But possibly the most insane of all is Le Corbusier's utopian vision for Paris which consisted of bulldozing the city of lights and replacing it with what resembles the worst projects in the South Bronx. It says a lot for the profession that the vision of arguably the world's most famous architect was to destroy what is arguably the world's most beautiful architecture.