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We've trawled the web to fine genuinely special objects for this gift guide, from a Cray super-computer, an original Apple Lisa, a calculator used on the Mir space station, some classic Dieter Rams objects and the most beautifully futuristic car ever made, the Citroen SM.You can buy any of the items via the links to the sites where they are listed. If anyone bought me anything from this list I'd be very, very happy.

oobject 2012 holiday gift guide

When I was a nipper… boy's pockets were filled with bits of old string a couple of bits of candy and perhaps a penknife.Now, apparently you could find anything from a DVR to a miniature helicopter in there. As part of a series about everything small, here is our pocket sized chart. Vote for your faves.

8 cool pocket sized gadgets

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

In the mid 50s an small Japanese electronics company, Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, created an American sounding brand name, Sony, for a series of portable all-transistor radios. The product design was similarly American influenced, with wide spaced serif lettering, like that used on Amtrak trains or even Raymond Loewy's original Air Force One, but with a flair and attention to detail that was distinctively Japanese. Half a century later, Sony, is still a consumer brand which is associated with superior design. Here are 12 of our all time favorite classic Sony Designs.

12 classic sony designs

Beautiful working model Stirling engines are a favorite of the Steampunk style, because these efficient engines use external flame heat as an energy source, combined with Victorian brass or steel mechanisms.But they have an added benefit, in that their workings are entirely intuitive and help people easily understand the principals of cylinder engines in things like cars. Here are a collection of videos of some of our favorites, some, but not all, 'Steampunky', in action.

12 steampunk stirling engines (videos)

Just when people are talking about banning the incandescent light bulb, designers are noticing how beautiful they are and making lamps which show of rather than hide bulbs. Here is an eclectic list of items in honor of the humble light bulb, including a couple of takes on other types of lamp, for good measure

Homage to the Light Bulb

Yesterday we managed to get into CERN and do some exploring. Our mission? Not to go to the Giant LHC experiments, such as Atlas, but to root around the campus itself, find the exact place where Tim Berners Lee invented the web, marked by a small plaque, and photograph it, license-free, since there seem to be no images of it that we could find. We went through several doors marked ‘radiation’, were told to leave one place, because ‘the beam was on’, saw the Grid data center and rooms with blackboards covered in equations – but we found it.

oobject search for web birthplace at CERN

Bang and Olufsen are famous for their superior design in electronics in the period prior to the 80s, yet there are no designers employed by the company. Instead, all design is traditionally outsourced and the Bang and Olufsen heyday, when their products were must have items for the homes of architects and designers is largely due to one man Jacob Jensen who designed a range of classic products between the late 60s and 80s.Like Apple today, Jensen obsessed with build quality and finish, and eschewed visible buttons wherever possible, using below glass illuminated controls and even proposing gesture based interfaces.Most satisfyingly, unlike current trends in design from double curved car shells to rounded corner boxes on web pages, Jensens trademark was ruthlessly squared off edges.

10 classic jacob jensen gadgets

These are possibly the most impressive gadgets on earth, beautifully complicated, polished stainless steel instruments that employ electron, x-ray, and ion probes, often in combination with depth profiling techniques, for surface analysis. They are the instruments featured on the covers of science lab and university brochures and are exactly what I want for my birthday. Vote for your faves.

12 ultra complex surface analysis systems

What makes clay models so special, is that they are the one-off original designs. In theory they are the priceless, original works of art and the production cars are the prints.The traditional process of manually refining the design of a car using clay over foam formwork, is still used even today, when CAD has replaced most drafting. Clay designs are often produced directly from computer milling and usually tweaks are fed back into the CAD design

12 clay car mockups

From the $75,000 Opus to robotic automated one player systems, hybrid reality and second life tables, extra long team play tables and the futuristic new table by GRO design. These are not your average foosball tables.

top 10 oddball foosball tables

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

One of the benefits of the tradition of wooden buildings in the US is that they have fairly good tensile strength, so you can pick them up and move them elsewhere without them falling apart. This makes for some fairly surreal imagery, particularly in time lapse, since homes are all about static permanency. And we've included one daring masonry building move in the list, just to prove it can be done.

8 moving houses videos

It seems like oil cleanup includes some of the most basic and advanced technologies, from literally hoovering it up, to skimming it and burning it, using oil eating bacteria and swarms of Roomba style oil cleanup bots.

oil spill cleanup technologies

By the end of the decade, not one of New York's skyscrapers will be in the top 10 tallest, compared to those in Saudi Arabia or the Arab Emirates. The Burj Dubai, which is nearly completed will be the size of two Empire State buildings on top of each other and it would be completely dwarfed by proposals on either side of the Arabian peninsula for mile high towers. The Emirates contain some of the most surreal, monumental and ironic recent architectural projects, including a mammoth ferris wheel hotel, a twin tower Wold Trade Center and an enormous convention center intentionally modeled on the Death Star from Star Wars. Vote for the most surreal.

20 Arabian mega skyscrapers

Apple's refresh of the Macbook line this fall is more evolutionary than revolutionary. In terms of design they have continued the trend, which started with the iPhone (see the drilled headphone jack hole on the original model) towards machining directly from block metal. This has lead to the latest Macbooks as being described as having monocoque structures, something which may not strictly be false but which is meaningless in the context.A monocoque is a single piece shell structure, it is a nice sounding word and is often used in marketing literature because it sounds technical. Because of this, and because of the fact that things like commercial airliners are hybrids of frame and shell structures almost anything can be described as such. There is a perfect geodesic truss in the list below which is described as a monocoque shell structure (the opposite), while an ordinary soda can is a monocoque. The use of machining for Apple parts has more to do with tolerances and finish and almost nothing to do with structure, so the term is not relevant.Below we discuss the merits of things which are described as monocoque - but as for the Macbook, not really

Apple monocoque or not

Trainspotting declared the worst toilet in Scotland, something which presumably takes some beating. Here are some of the worst toilets, kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms.

12 unbelievably filthy apartments

BASE jumping is much more interesting than ordinary skydiving, for us, because it involves architecture. Here are some videos of people jumping off notable structures, such as Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Nervi's influential Pirelli tower in Milan and the enormous Burg Dubai. We have also included a jump off the end of a blade on a wind turbine (because they are beautiful structures) and an indoor jump inside a cathedral like, converted airship hangar. The Macau tower bungee jump is notable because its a similar height to the Eiffel tower and is a legal amusement ride that anyone can pay for. Our favorite, however, is the jump off Calatrava's Turning Torso building in Malmo, Sweden. Although Calatrava can sometimes appear willful in his focus on structure rather than space, revealing himself to be more of a creative engineer than an architect, the Turning Torso is his best work to date. Similarly the jump itself is spectacular, involving two parts: jumping from a plane onto its roof and then from the roof to the ground. In the rather obscure and narrow overlap between extreme sports and architecture this is a definitive piece.

jumping off notable architecture (and surviving) videos

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

Last night our very, very ,very bad cat had diarrhea, then stepped in it, walked all around the house and trampled all over the bed. Here is a list of the best gadgets to deal with cat and dog feces, including a $7000 device for cleaning out paddocks, which I think we might have to buy.

14 best pet poop gadgets

Unintentional comedy is one of the consequences of Moores Law (that computer power doubles every two years) and almost any claim made in a computer ad more than a decade old. Included here are claims that compared to the Macbook Air that I am writing this on, a computer with 2 million times less RAM will "satisfy your lust for power"; that a computer a thousand times slower will give you "answers fast" for demanding applications and that a computer with several thousand times the volume is "compact and mobile".

16 hilariously unimpressive computer ads

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From double amputee, Aimee Mullins, who modeled for Alexander McQueen on a pair of beautiful hand-carved wooden prosthetic legs made from solid ash to amputee soldiers who would not have survived without advances in combat medical care and who are returning to active combat at a rate which is 7 times higher than a generation ago (2% - 16%) to athletes such as Oscar Pistorius, whose carbon fiber prosthetics help him compete at a level which calls into question the separation of 'special' athletic competition, the way we view prosthetics and disability is changing. 3d printing, advanced composite materials are enabling this from an aesthetic and design standpoint as much as the more obvious technical advances through electronics and bio feedback systems.

Complex dangerous machinery isn't the first choice for a home-brew project, unless you are rural farmer, apparently. Some of these look like remnants of a cargo cult, and most of them received stern warnings from the relevant civil aviation authorities to not even try firing them up, but a couple actually flew.

Famous French industrial designer, Roger Tallon recently died, leaving something of a design mystery. Newspapers universally credited him as the designer of the iconic French high speed train, the TGV, but that was almost certainly the work of Jacques Cooper. Tallon did take over from Cooper to do the TGV Atlantique, but this was an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary design. Perhaps Tallon's influence was more on the interiors? For me, Tallon's best work was his 1960's M400 spiral stair which seems to be the direct inspiration for some of Ross Lovegrove's best work.

Dieter Rams' 40 year stint at Braun until 1995 redefined the world of product design, taking pure modernism to the world of gadgets. He is the direct inspiration for much of Apple's product design after Steve Jobs returned and in many aspects his work is more rigorous and more coherent than Apple's. I've picked 15 of my favorite items, but if I had to choose just one, it would be the LE 1 electrostatic speakers from 1959. They were built around Quad technology and influenced Apple's large screen displays.

Toys are a particularly rich source of irony, but this list exceeded all expectations from the hilarious ‘safe, harmless, giant atomic bomb’ to the atomic reactor which requires a battery, but the atomic bomb dexterity game which requires kids to target Hiroshima and Nagasaki is just plain sick.

Metal plate armor is one of the few technologies that emerged, disappeared in the 18th Century then re-emerged briefly during World War 1. Because of the this, WW1 armor has a particularly creepy, anachronistic look, from chain mail fringed splatter masks to body armor which looks decidedly Roman.

Despite the uninteresting name, these rectifiers are one of the most beautiful gadgets ever made. As a result they are often seen if films and are quintessential elements of mad scientist labs, yet few people could name them or know what they were used for. Invented at the beginning of the 20th Century, Mercury Arc Rectifiers were like spectacularly large versions of the Tubes in pre-transistor era electronics. They were used to convert electricity from alternating to direct current.

Bunker architecture is often better by accident than the deliberate attempts to create an aesthetic based on massive elements, through brutalism. Paul Virilio famously published a book of some of the more extreme versions of the 12,000 bunkers that formed the Atlantic Wall in WWII and Albania has an incredible 700,000 bunkers in a population of 3M, created by its mad leader, Enver Hoxha. Perhaps the strangest of all are the concealed bunkers that litter the Swiss countryside either as fake chalets or as mountains that literally open up to reveal jet fighters.

Soviet computer manufacture had a promising beginning with devices such as the MESM, which when it was produced in 1950 was the first universally programmable computer in continental Europe. By today's standards, you'd have to fill the Empire State Building full of MESMs to have the same processing power as an iPhone. Later Soviet block computers were invariably based on Western counterparts with a myriad of Sinclair Spectrum clones, an Apple II based machine, PC compatibles and later on, Vax based systems from Robotron in East Germany.

The excitement over commercial sub-orbital space tourism masks the reality of real commercial space venture through orbiting satellites. Obviously these are splendid complex objects to drool over, but you only get to do that while they are being assembled on the ground. Here are some of our favorite images including the giant clean rooms where surgeon-like technicians in white overalls piece them together.

Mechanical horse are interesting because they straddle the gap between the era of the internal combustion engine (we still notionally benchmark our cars relative to horses through horse power) and that of bone & gristle.

Perhaps it’s because we sometimes take the things we see around us for granted and a technical drawing of its design shows the effort that went into it that I find these Nasa drawings so interesting. That in addition to the labels saying what things do. With that in mind, i included an diagram which isn’t really a blueprint, from a Apollo 15 press kit showing how they unpacked the lunar rover – for some reason I always wondered how they did that. I also cheated with a couple of NASA project images that aren’t from NASA to show how other companies were involved – such as Lockheed’s Hubble Telescope and Boeing’s drawings of the Saturn V configuration.

Lookout towers are often more dramatic pieces of architecture than tall buildings because they only have a single floor – the top one. This means that they can be very skeletal and the design is all about a dramatic staircase. Here are some of our favorite examples,accidental architectural gems, like mini Eiffel Towers used for watching everything from forest fires to smugglers.

Switzerland may not have been the place where the symbolically mundane cuckoo clock was invented (it was actually Germany), but it was where Hofmann invented LSD. And although the CERN lab is mainly in Switzerland, where the plaque commemorating the web’s invention sits, the room where Tim Berners Lee wrote the proposal for the web is literally a few feet across the border into neighboring France. Here are some some labs where famous inventors worked.

Lighthouses are extreme and iconic buildings. Remote, intrinsically conspicuous and built to withstand extreme environments. For this list I've picked some interesting lighthouses themselves, such as the transparent latticework hyperboloid structure by Russian engineer Vladimir Shukhov or the haunting abandoned soviet nuclear powered polar lighthouses. In addition I've chosen some interesting elements from the giant fresnel lenses lamps to the traveling libraries that the predecessor to the US coastguard used to pass around to lighthouse keepers to keep their sanity.

In case there were any doubt about just how unpleasantly weird Kim Jong Il’s tyrannical grip over North Korea, here are 12 examples of his propaganda posters. They range from imagery of attacks on the US in a bizarre blend of Soviet art and 50s American comic books to perhaps the most macabre of all, pictures of copious abundance of produce in a place where people are starving to death.

When the shuttle takes off tomorrow it will be a symbolic example of technological regress, a small step down for man, a giant plunge for mankind. After the Shuttle, there will longer be re-usable space vehicles, no rocket capable of taking us to the moon, no submersible capable of taking us to the bottom of the deepest ocean. Airline travelers will only be able to fly half as fast as they used to and most seriously, children will get diseases that were previously wiped out all because progress doesn’t always happen and because some people don’t believe in it.I’ve picked 9 examples of technological regression, they will be ordered according to your votes – pick the the ones you think are the biggest loss.

One of the most odd objects we’ve ever seen these items are sometimes confused with spy gadgetry, but the truth is stranger. Jailers’ keys were apparently filled with gun powder to create a primitive gun that could be detonated if there was any trouble when opening a cell door. We found several original versions that back up this claim, dating from the 17th century and of various complexity.

As someone who fell the height of the Eiffel tower in a climbing accident, each one of these images makes my palms sweat, from Bettmans classic views of acrobats on the edges of newly built NY skyscrapers to Li Wei's elaborate illusions of people seemingly in mid air. One however, stands out from all the rest, the legendary stuntman Dar Robinson on the edge of the CN tower. Click through to see a video of the stunt.

Comic book ads are the nadir of capitalism, where the ability to blatantly deceive through advertising is exacerbated by the fact the audience is young children. Here are some classics.

Money is like quantum physics, the more you think about it the weirder it becomes, from the completely abstract versions of credit to 4 ton limestone Yap island coins. Money is most often based on trust, the illusion that a promise has tangible value. Here are some of the most interesting examples of money we could find, the earliest coins, credit cards and bank notes and the largest coins and checks.

Vehicles that are actually driven by screws were developed as all terrain vehicles for places like snow driven Siberia. In the US there were several experimental vehicles including the Fordson snow devil, built on top of a tractor. Included here are as many videos of them in action, as I could find.

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