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oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
If there was one cassette deck to own, it was a Nakamichi. With the release of the model 1000 (its number reflected its high price) in the early 70s, reel-to-reel tape recorders were rendered all but obsolete, for consumers. With the release of the 700 Nakamichi created a functional and design classic.Because cassette tapes are in the gap between vintage retro and mere obsolescence, Nakamichis can be picked up for a reasonable price on Ebay.

8 Classic Nakamichi Cassette Decks

This list covers the period from 1920 when the Harding – Cox election results were first broadcast by radio, to the present day when presenters have to interact with a virtual reality zoo of giant, artless, real-time animated charts.The first live TV election broadcasts were produced in the 50s, employing professional sign writers would have to paint charts, live. Static and very basic sets were used well into the 70s, as can be seen from the spartan US military set in South Vietnam for the 1972 Nixon election.Despite the technology behind contemporary broadcast sets, they are all unimaginatively dull, with identical patriotic, red white and blue color schemes and similar color blends and soft shading. These are the TV equivalent of a hideous blue-white blend default Powerpoint template.

election broadcast technology through history

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

Our favorites here are the food based instruments of The First Viennese Vegetable Orchestra and the spectacular Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ which is practically the 8th wonder of the world.

15 strange musical instruments

Although the term galvanometer is often used to refer to things other than devices which measure electrical current (such as charge or resistance), there are an amazing array of early designs for this instrument, considering their simplicity.Many of these design differences are to do with the cases that surround what is basically a twisting wire, however there is something definitively analog in their mechanism and 19th century amateur scientist in their variety. Early galvanometers represent the extreme opposite of todays high energy physics, which requires giant multi billion dollar apparatuses and extreme digital processing for measurement. A long way off a compass and a battery.

different types of galvanometer

The earliest remotes were neither wireless or used to control TVs. Since the 30s devices were available to control radios, Philcos 1939 wood and Bakelite model was actually wireless and predates any TV remote. TV remotes started with gadgets such as the Zenith Lazy Bones and it was Zenith who introduced the first cable free TV remote, with the Flash-matic.

9 early remote controls

In 2006 and 2007 a new method of smuggling emerged, surface skimming, semi-submersible, home-made submarines were captured from Thailand to Spain to Colombia. In 2008 the number spotted has already reached the 2007 count. These craft often had sophisticated electronics for evading capture. To get some idea of the logistical scale of these things, a 100ft long Russian designed submarine was captured in Colombia’s capital, Bogota, 7,500 ft above sea level. The voting for this list is obviously irrelevant.

drug smuggling submarines

Some of the most original or most innovative lighting ideas.

13 innovative lights

Carbon Fiber matches wood in terms of flexibility of form and surpasses steel in terms of strength. Because of this it is beginning to be used as a decorative item, replacing walnut in car dashboards, for example. This consciously decorative use can work well, but where carbon fiber is used for pseudo functional design, like the carbon fiber letter opener shown here, the choice is inappropriate and ridiculous.

8 pointless uses of carbon fiber

Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich donated money for a giant tunneling machine to build a tunnel between Russia and Sarah Palin’s house, when he was governor of the adjacent region to Alaska. The Wikipedia entry for Tunneling Machines and the entry for Civil Engineers in the UK Yellow Pages have something in common, they both read: ‘see boring’. Doubly ironic, since boring is one of the most interesting projects for civil engineers, and the machines used to do the job are spectacular. The set here includes a variety of shield tunnel boring machines, TBMs, including those for celebrated projects such as Yucca mountain or the Channel Tunnel. Perhaps the most ironic of all is the Air Force TBM, a machine for digging deep underground, owned by the people who defend the skies.

20 interesting boring machines

There is a saturation point where individual pieces of graffiti become a texture, when things are absolutely covered in graffiti. This tends to happen in places that are charged with emotional energy, such as the Berlin wall, however here are some less well known places. From the throne of England which is covered top to bottom in hundreds of years old carved graffiti and equally aristocratic Harrow School which features a wood paneled classroom where every inch is covered by pupils who have carved their names, including Winston Churchill to pop culture shrines such as U2′s former recording studio and Elvis’ Graceland and not so pop Oscar Wilde, whose grave is covered in kisses.

graffiti covered

Inflatables are an obvious choice for space vehicles and satellites, a small sized payload than can be inflated once up, yet for some reason they aren’t the norm.The first passive communications satellites were inflatable spheres, such as the Echo series, which mylar was developed for, and early prototypes for space stations were inflatable. More recently, funding for the inflatable replacement for the habitat unit on the space station was cancelled and a private company Bigelow Aerospace is now the pioneer in the field, having successfully launched an inflatable unit.My favorite in this list, however, is the grid sphere satellite which replaced the Echo ones which didn’t stay up long becuase the suns heat would deform them and slow them down. A helium inflated plastic balloon expanded a signal reflecting hollow geodesic mesh, with the plastic then dissolving under the suns rays. The mesh could then stay up for 11 years or so.

12 space inflatables

Getting out of the way of boats is a perennial problem that results in spectacular engineering, from the absolutely enormous retractable bridge in the Gulf of Corinth in Greece, to the beautiful bridge in Paddington Basin, London, which automatically curls itself into a ball, once a day.

Impressive moving bridges

One of the negative things about technological progress is when something that was originally intricate and mechanical becomes a ubiquitous piece of cheap technology. This happened in the 70s with watches and more recently has happened with cameras.A modern day spy camera is not that interesting, but the miniature ones here are, similarly the wide range of hardware solutions create much more design diversity in early cameras, from the giant 900lb box camera to the bizarre miniature ones developed for carrier pigeons, from gun like trigger activated shutters to a propeller powered film advance mechanism for a camera mounted below an early aircraft.

12 unusual cameras

Early brick sized cellphones spanned the end of the 80s and beginning of the 90s when Nokia was still remembered as the manufacturer of jackboots for the Soviet army. The distinction between carphones and portable cellular phones was blurred and even today the largest cellphone outlet in the UK is called the Carphone Warehouse.Here is a nostalgic lineup of videos of some of these with 2 notable inclusions, the Nokia 9000, which you could use to access a server from more effectively than an iPhone or Blackberry, in the early days of the web and the Iridium, whose demise is one of the few examples of technology regress: there is no longer a truly global cellphone network, but there used to be.

brick sized cellphone ads (videos)

Imagine a gas powered desktop publishing system that weighed several tons, leaked oil, had thousands of moving parts, its own boiler full of molten lead and a keyboard where you couldn’t see what you had typed and which looked a thousand times more strange and complicated than any deliberately anachronistic Steampunk PC casemod.

This is how the machines that laid out the pages of newspapers were till the 80s, and to give some idea of how recent this technology was used, they were manufactured until after the release of the Apple computer. Linotype had a virtual monopoly on the typesetting of newspapers for a hundred years and their design is a superb example of an endlessly refined solution to what became an anachronistic problem. Linotypes were unlike any keyboard driven device, before or since.

linotypes from hell

Some of the amazing projects recently built or currently under construction in China’s rival cities. We have tried to pick links to the latest state of construction where possible. What is emerging is a distinct stylistic difference, Shanghai is about glitz while Beijing scores on architectural innovation, although this largely due to the Olympics and the role of Beijing as the capital.While the Arabian peninsula has overtaken the US in raw architectural point scoring (not one New York skyscraper will make the top ten tallest there within a couple of years), China is producing buildings on both a scale and quality that now far exceeds the US.

Shanghai vs Beijing architectural bakeoff

Whenever you see a picture of the ancient pyramids of Giza the view behind is of endless sweeping sands rather than the smog heavy skyline of downtown Cairo. Here we’ve collected some of the least flattering and depressing views of famous monuments or places, from the Stonhenge car park to the Starbucks in the Louvre. There are a couple of unlikely ones such as the Acropolis which in some ways is depressing from every angle, having been destroyed while used as a munitions dump, or the more preserved version of Trajan’s column which is hidden away in a London museum, with a janitor’s closet in its base. Vote for the worst.

9 depressing views of famous monuments

Both the second world war and cold war produced particular styles and uses of bomb shelters that were unusual, from Swiss suburban houses with mandatory blast shelters and several years of food to the use of London’s tube stations as shelters during the second world war. Here are a few examples of vintage shelters, each with a hint of retro irony or bygone strangeness.

9 retro bomb shelters

Included here are notable landings based upon being spectacularly close to high rises (the old Hong Kong airport), very short runways (Saba, aircraft carriers), specific vehicles (the Space Shuttle and Concorde) or a reconstruction of the Amazing US Airways flight 1549 which ditched safely in the Hudson after all engines failed.

videos of plane landings from the cockpit

The Oobject Ceatec 2007 awards – vote for your favorite exhibit.Below is a roundup from this years Ceatec show, in Japan. The principal themes included gesture recognition technologies and interfaces, and super flat screens.Our favorite items were the NTT Wellness phone, which tells you if you have bad breath, and the 1limited sound projection system which allows 2 people to sit on a couch and hear completely different things. – ‘What we have here is a failure to communicate’.

23 best gadgets at ceatec 2007

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

From 3 megawatt offshore monsters to zero energy windmill skyscrapers, kite flown turbines and giant seabed anchored super-turbines, held aloft by blimps. Here is our list of the most futuristic and quixotic designs for wind turbines. By far the most beautiful way to harness energy.

16 beautiful wind turbines

oobject header image

AT&T and Best Buy phone launch details leak: nuvifone, Omnia 2, Chocolate Touch, more

August 10th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
Phone launch leaks a-plenty this weekend, as the Boy Genius Report scoops up a couple of interesting screenshots from Best Buy and AT&T.

wtf is that? #13

July 31st, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

wtf

What is this, cargo and container?


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.

The Saturn V rocket was something the size of a skyscraper could survive being thrown into orbit, undamaged. 40 years after the Saturn V powered trip to the moon, nothing as powerful exists today.Years ago Airfix made a model of a Saturn V which I lusted after as a kid and Revell have now re-released their original 1:96 version and a 1:144 one which is the same size as the old Airfix. We tracked down the best Saturn V models that you can buy or have been built, culminating in auto repair man, Steve Eves’ completely insane home built 40 foot high, 1600 pound monster which he actually launched, in April.

WTF is that? #12

July 16th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

wtf

What was in this case? It’s topical.


The Apollo 12 Quarantine Airstream – which ended up on a fish farm

July 15th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
Vintage Airstreams are cool enough, but imagine owning a NASA moon astronaut quarantine version.

The Apollo 11 Quarantine trailer is in a museum and the never used Apollo 13 one is on board the USS Hornet, but the Apollo 12 one was sold off as surplus and ended up at a fish farm, as seen here.
An amazing find.


Being tall and thin means that one of the common but nevertheless unusual uses of old silos is to house climbing walls. Old silo structures, from underground missile silos to towering grain stores are often interesting pieces of industrial archaeology and make unconventional architectural conversions.

WTF is that? #11

July 6th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

wtf

What is this giant book?


The interior design of Sweden’s giant nuclear bunker.In the mid seventies, when ABBA topped the music charts, Sweden was just putting the finishing touches on its giant civil defense nuclear bunker outside Stockholm, called the Elephant.Traditionally neutral Sweden made this a priority due to its close proximity with Russia, but the Elephant is unlike any other cold war bunker – because it looks rather like an underground IKEA.In order to prevent claustrophobia, fake horizons were painted on the walls of recreation areas, with green below and blue above, representing sky and grass. Even lamps were painted yellow to represent the sun. In the business parts of the bunker, such as briefing rooms and control rooms, shades of gray relieved by red were used.Unlike other bunkers which used the same tactics, with murals of mountain or countryside scenes the obsessive schematic nature of the Swedish bunker is like a children’s bedroom in hell.Urban explorers have visited and documented the Elephant bunker. Here are our picks from a wonderful set by Bill_R on Flickr. Click through any of the pictures for more.

A perfect example of nothing dating like the future, the garbage can robot is a retro-futuristic cultural icon. Some of these were cheap props for cheap movies, but others were serious visions of the future. If nothing else they demonstrate quite how imaginative the Metropolis robot that stands the test of time was.

WTF is that? #10

June 22nd, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

wtf

What is it, and what’s the story?


The original British Secret Service headquarters was just that, secret. But the increase in importance of electronics meant that it was more important for a building to be invisible to electronic eavesdropping. as such the current M16 HQ in London is about as obvious a giant sign saying ‘secret building here’, yet it is enclosed in a giant Faraday cage to protect its communications.Not all Intelligence agencies have had a discrete architectural past, Franco’s House of Screams, or the Soviet Lubyanka are demonstrably terrifying. Mossad’s HQ, until the 60s or the current Australian Secret Intelligence Service look quite modest compared to the hardly known Ministry of National Security of Azerbaijan, which houses its intelligence service, in a large and monolithic building of dramatic proportions.

The Highline is fashionable in every sense. A park inspired by one in Paris, a combination of Euro chic, treehugging sanctity and hipster industrial grunge.But it sits above ground, shovels people off the streets via stairs which cyclists can’t use and leads from nowhere to nowhere. In addition, little money ha been spend on the dark spaces underneath, which could easily negate any benefit provided above.The designers involved are great and there are nice touches, but could it have been better just to have torn it down and created something at street level. Such talk is heresy, but here are 9 reasons why we are disbelievers.

Apple is closed source. What do you think of the iPhone 3GS?

June 9th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
The announcement of the iPhone guaranteed one thing – that every Apple keynote after it would be a disappointment.

Yesterday, was no exception. Apple announced a go-faster version of the iPhone, with a moniker reminiscent of a 1970s Citroen car, the 3GS and a minor software upgrade.

The new hardware featured a camera that was almost as good as standard issue for other phones in Europe and Japan.

The new software added a few do-dads, such as a remote bleeper and software erase that only works if you sign up to the Apple software service that gives you things like an inferior version of Gmail.

New apps were showcased, such as the very promising looking Tom Tom application and unpromising looking Tom Tom kit that hinted it would cost almost as much as a standalone GPS device, thus defeating the point.

But the big deal was the addition of tethering, allowing you to use the iPone as a 3G modem. Something that many 3G phones already do.

No matter that 3G tethering presumably costs money via the providers Apple listed, the problem was that it wouldn't work at all in the US, via the sole carrier, ATT.

Although Apple could be playing passive aggressive, deliberately directing flack at ATT, this is not just an ATT problem.

Apple is no longer the little guy offering a better alternative to Microsoft. Increasingly Apple's closed platform is becoming an irritating hassle, rather than a price that is worth paying for well designed and integrated products from hardware to software.

Here are some of the unnecessary irritations and bad design that Apple's closed approach creates:

1. You cannot easily store your music on an external device without needless messing around with iTunes restrictions.

2. You cannot go abroad with your iPhone and slip a new SIM card in without a huge pain in the ass.

3. You cannot take advantage of many new iPhone or OS features without subscribing to a service that offers inferior versions of free online services like Gmail, that will always be better because of the resources allocated to them.

4. You cannot replace the battery in an iPod, iPhone or (now) MacBook without a screwdriver.

Apple products are beautifully designed where most gadgets are useless toys, and the OS is peerless but there is a creeping sensation of needless and irritating lock in.


Britain is probably the only country in the world where electric vehicle use is declining, due to the rapid disappearance of the electric milk delivery vehicle, or milk float.Until recently it was common place for milk to be delivered to almost every house in the UK, daily. Presumably in order to secure the national flow of tea. To achieve this a vast army of distinctive, cheap looking, sluggish, electric utility vehicles paraded suburban streets.Here are some different varieties, including new concept vehicles and milk floats from movies, all preserved for posterity.

This year the MIT class ring, the Brass Rat, hides a hackers’ diagram of a subterranean campus wide tunnel network.Networks of secret passages and tunnels have been built on a giant scale, from components of the Maginot line to the Viet Cong Cu Chi Network. Others perform a peacetime function, such as the half mile tunnel network H.G. Dyar built under his Washington home, as a hobby, the passageways under Disney’s Magic Kingdom or the unbelievable 5000 year old Lizard People tunnel network under Los Angeles that the L.A. Times published a diagram of during the depression.Here is a collection of our favorite tunnel network diagrams, drawings or models.

WTF is that? #9

June 4th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

wtf

Its pretty clear what this is – an aircraft entombed in ice – but what is the story, where is it and how did it get there?


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.

To mark the 800th anniversary of the famous London Bridge, the Royal Institute of British Architects has launched a competition for designs of an inhabited bridge.The current London Bridge is not the Victorian Gothic Tower Bridge, as many people believe, but a rather bland stone one. Its predecessor was also uninteresting and was bought by mistake and put in the Arizona desert. But the original London Bridge was a cultural icon, a bridge covered in buildings.Inspired by the competition we have put together a list of the most interesting inhabited bridges, from surreal single house bridge designs to Zaha Hadids sleek Zaragoza Expo bridge .

Inhalt

May 22nd, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
Inhalt is the multicellular caravan by Mehrzelle.”Using the online Configurator, every user sets up ..(more…

WTF is That? #8

May 21st, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

wtf

More specifically, what are these… answers in the comments.


Just how much of the human body can you replace or augment: seemingly everything apart from the tadpole like remnants of the brain and spinal chord.Bionic eyes, ears, hearts, lungs, kidneys, livers, hands, feets, legs, arms and skin are now real science rather than concept designs. For this list, we have gathered together as many real devices including commercially available products rather than concept designs or imagery that appeal based on gimmick value. The one exception is the tooth and ear cellphone implant which is feasible today.An interesting idea is how the notion of a cyborg might change (often imagined as fusion of mechanical and electronic technology with human biology), since many of these devices use technology that is itself principally biological, such as stem cell lines in the bioreactor liver or artificial skin.

WTF is That? #7

May 15th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

mystery object

What is this, what does it do? Can I have one for my birthday?

Answers in the comments


After having been traveling for more than 7 months in the last year, the combination of neck strain and carpal tunnel from using a laptop requires a really good stand.I needed one that is compact and portable for travel and one that is highly adjustable at home. Being super anal about these things, I looked through hundreds of web sites and so put together an oobject list. The list covers everything from wheeled out units to a truckers cab laptop stand and a wearable harness that actually manages to look undorky but several items are based on the simple premise of a compact or flat folding cheap and simple stand.In the end I chose both products from the same company, the Evo floating laptop arm, which is most like a task light adjustment system and the mini, tripod-based Cricket laptop stand.

Ten beautiful computers

May 14th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
They ended their lives as museum pieces, aquariums, couches, and even at the bottom of the sea. But these are the ones that stay with us.nbsp; ZX Spectrum Flashes of prismatic color on Clive Sinclair’s tiny ZX Spectrum mark the original from its vast army of clones.

Futuristic megastructures are ironically a thing of the past. An architectural style dubbed supermodernism that flourished in the late 60s and early 70s. Despite the seemingly tongue in cheek nature of projects by Superstudio which threatened to engulf Manhattan in a giant concrete snake or Archigram who proposed plugin and walking cities, these projects have had an enormous impact on architecture. They are the inspiration for both fictional and real projects, from Blade Runners Off-world, to the Pompidou center and continue to influence master-planning projects today.

A perfect folding bike design

May 12th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
Industrial designer Mark Sanders’ IF-Mode folding bike is now for sale in the U.S. Sanders stuck with a full-sized design because “people prefer larger wheels for ease of pedaling and smoothness of ride,” yet the bike still folds up compact enough to fit into a suitcase that you could actually…

BUGlabs Modular Gadget Factory

May 12th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
BUGlabs Modular Gadget Factory ThinkGeek are now selling BUGLabs. BUG’s are various items which can either secure things, track things with GPS, read barcodes, draw pictures, update Twitter and control robots.

WTF is that? #6

May 8th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

wtf is that

Any guidance as to what this is? Answers in the comments


The world is truly a small place when the Inuit, Bedouin tribesmen and Tibetan nomads all have HBO. The wonder of satellite transmission creates a perfect juxtaposition of old and new as space age technology meets traditional lifestyles than haven’t changed in centuries – apart from the ability to watch Battlestar Gallactica in Outer Mongolia. Here are ten examples of traditional dwellings with satellite dishes.

Despite the title of this list, several of these housing projects were designed by some of the world’s most famous architects and lauded at the time. The undeniable squalor of 19th Century slums combined with modernism to produce and attempt to clean things up and create a crystalline utopia. The end result was often an anti-septic vision of hell, a place devoid of organic spaces and evolves social interaction.The architectural crime that started with Corbusier’s insane proposal to demolish the historic center of Paris and replace it with something like the worst of the South Bronx and culminated in the White and Black racially segregated human silos of St Louis’s Pruitt-Igoe, continues to this day and even as middle class, owner-occupied dwelling such as those in Hong Kong. Its principal feature is de-humanizing alienation. Vote for your worst…

WTF is That? #5

May 1st, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

wtf is that

What is this unfamiliar object? As always there is a clue in the question. Answers in the comments


The name Chrysler will be remembered if no other car is produced, in the automobile inspired skyscraper that is the pinnacle of American machine-age design.The Chrysler building is the tallest brick (steel re-enforced) building in the world but it is fundamentally modern, a triumph of both technology and design. Steel gargoyles were modeled on 1929 Chrysler automobile hood decorations and radiator caps and the earliest stainless steel cladding covered the stepped, Thai Princess-like crown. The Chrysler’s spire was unveiled in less than an hour, to make it the tallest building in the world and the first the first structure more than 1000ft high.Here are a selection of iconic views and details of the Chrysler, what I believe is America’s most important building, and an important milestone in the history of technology.

Wonders of Jurassic Technology: Bartini Beriev

April 24th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
The Bartini Beriev is one of those objects that scores on every level of Jurassic technology fetishism: highly unusual experimental design (check); looks like something from science fiction (check); Soviet (check); abandoned and rotting (check); looks like an enormous frightening bug (check).

Although only prototypes were built, in the 1970s, the Bartini was a revolutionary hybrid vehicle. It was designed to take of vertically – from water! To fly as a real plane at high altitudes and to use the Wing in Ground Effect to skim the water somewhere between a hovercraft and a plane. This gives it another delicious feature: cool name: (WIG) vehicle, flarecraft, sea skimmer, ekranoplan. The Bartini is all of these.

The image above shows it with the main wings removed (below is the original configuration).

bartini

From a design perspective it demonstrates the extreme difference between the boring flying cigar design of commercial aircraft and military planes.

Commercial planes occupy a single species, very stable ecosystem with little evolution of form. In the military, a literal arms race creates a more varied environment, resulting in all sorts of shapes, sizes and functions of planes. The Bartini is a very good example of this, being a world apart from a Boeing or Airbus airliner.

Head over to Airliners.net where they have more images of the Bartini.


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.

Design elegance: How USB took over the world.

April 20th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
Belkin released a trivial looking gadget today which demonstrates how USB has become the universal standard interface. It turns the car cigarette lighter, which in turn had morphed into a universal charging interface, into a USB one.

There are many features which made USB a successful standard but there are 2 which stand out and made it truly elegant:

1. software and drivers could be stored in peripherals themselves, and transferred, finally removing the headache of configuring external devices.

2. both data and power are carried across USB allowing things such as external drives to have one less cable and a lot less fuss.


WTF is That? Number 4

April 20th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

wtf

What is this ‘hellish’ machine? There’s the clue.

As usual, answers in the comments.


Phoropters, the gadgets used by opthalmologists to test your eyes look like the most spectacular binoculars you have ever seen.The traditional complex mechanical versions are technological works of art made by lens makers such as Bausch and Lomb and have the design quality of a classic vintage Leica camera. Only now are these marvelous gadgets slowly being replaced by simpler looking, wireless, digital versions which relay data to a computer for image analysis.

If you thought the Bullet train was the fastest thing on rails, you would be wrong – more than 6000 miles per hour wrong. Rocket sled test tracks were originally designed for the V2 in WWII and can reach up to 6400 mph.They were made famous in the 50s when Lt. Col John Paul volunteered himself to test a 200mph track designed for crash test dummies, called the Gee Whiz. The test was intended to show the effects of deceleration in a plane crash, where it was assumed that nobody could survive more than 18G. Strapp survived an unbelievable 35G.More recently a rocket sled was featured in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.However, the lasting legacy of the Gee Whiz test is Murphy’s Law, coined after a real engineer called Murphy who worked briefly at Edwards Air Force Base on the test track.

WTF is That! Friday

April 10th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

wtf

As usual – the game is to say what (TF) is going on here. In some ways this is better left as a mystery, since the image is so odd.


Heart rate monitors connected to an ink plotted graph are a staple of movies and TV and they usually come in beautiful portable versions by companies such as Lafayette Systems, making them a classic spy suitcase gadget.Polygraph lie detectors are widely believed to be useless quackery, no more effective than a Scientology Dianetics machine, but they are commonly used by law enforcement and government agencies, usually in the US and are an anachronistic cultural legacy of the cold war.Today, the classic analog polygraph is being replaced by much less interesting computer versions.

Somewhere between a damp cloth and a full NBC gas mask lies the often unintentionally hilarious looking smoke hood.Promotional material for these items is a particular source of amusement, combining the creepy looking imagery of people wearing strange plastic bags on their heads with the utterly normal attire of office workers or suburban mums. The effect is like catching your boss wearing fetish bondage gear.

Aside from the fact that vintage massage devices look less like smooth sensual objects than giant, terrifying dental machinery they are possibly the worlds best source of laugh-out-loud, euphemistic advertising copy.Here are a range of our favorite Frankenstein devices with some classic product names, such as the Handy Hannah Vitalator; Niagara Cycloid-Action Cyclo-Massage; Stim-U-Lax Junior; Bonger Body Massager, Magic Fingers Motel Bed Massager or our personal favorite the Chic [sic] Glorifier.

WTF is That? No. 2

March 30th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

wtfisthat

The man in the picture is not being hurt. In fact people are trying to help him. What in the world is the name of this device and what does it do? Answers in the comments.


WTF Is That. No 1.

March 30th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

WTF is that is a new regular feature on Oobject. We’ll trawl the web looking for unusual or interesting gadgets or technology and readers have to guess what they are from the picture.

Today’s item looks somewhat Persian or Sci-fi esque, an odd combination of chain-mail and bronze that is difficult to put in place or time.

What is it? Answers in the comments. Points for the correct or most witty answer.


Flying helmets are interesting because they demonstrate the rate of technological progress over the 20th century, from primitive, almost medieval looking leather caps to sophisticated cyborg like devices packed full of electronics. They also show different air force cultures, from spartan Soviet styles to individualistic, decorated and painted US fighter pilot helmets.

ASUS Eee Keyboard video touchscreen demo

March 24th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
The ASUS’ Eee Keyboard will, no doubt, generate lots of bloggery interest, as all gimmick keyboards seem to. But it is juts that – a gimmick.

Why Skype Phones Look Obsolete

March 23rd, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

There are a few of these devices around and they all share one thing in common – they look like obsolete cellphones.

The reason for this is, of course, that nobody developing a Skye phone has the economy of scale to create an innovative up to date handset, while no carrier will allow a device like the iPhone to have Skype.

The end result is pure farce.

If you’re looking for an alternative to using your computer’s built-in mic and speakers or a wired headset for use with Skype then Ipevo’s handset could be right for you. It has one simple purpose and works quite well.


Adding a sound system to something as skeletal as a bicycle is tricky task, but one that has been perfected around the world. From gangs in Queens to Critical Mass rallies boom box bikes are an interesting technological mix of eco and brash.

What Apple got wrong with the Shuffle.

March 13th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
This device which adds a usb socket to the end of the new iPod shuffle shows exactly why the second and third generation versions aren’t as good as the original.

The first iPod shuffle pioneered the form factor that became the USB key – a stick of gum shaped item that carried tunes. It was magnificent and simple.

The second version then made the form factor smaller, for no good reason, but required carrying around a separate docking cradle.

Then came version three which has the stick of gum form factor AND the cradle. Leading to third party devices like this one, to cobble together the original elegance.


Obvious the very word submarine implies something below sea level, so submarines on dry land are particularly weird. Here are some of our favorites, ranging from abandoned washed up submarines, like beached whales, to those which have been specially buried in the ground as museum exhibits.

Although there are many ironic underwater technologies that got there by accident, such as planes and trains or by design, underwater escape training helicopters, there are also mail boxes, telephone systems, cars, motorcycles, kayaks (yes underwater kayaks) and air conditioning units that are there just to mess with us. Here are the most surreal we could find, vote for your faves.

From London to Moscow to New York, Chicago, Dubai and Shanghai, almost every single high rise city in the world is seeing skyscraper projects canceled even as they have their foundations laid and start to rise from the ground.Here is a list of the biggest projects that have been put on hold so far. The disappointing reality is that almost none of them have any particular architectural merit, apart from Calatrava’s Chicago Spire, perhaps, and reflect a period when architecture firms were too overloaded with work to think very hard about the designs. Vote for which ones you would have liked to have seen finished.

Truly Horrible Gresso Skeleton Gold Luxury Phone

February 25th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
You would think that the credit crisis would have made crass badly designed objects like this, disappear. Sadly no, this hideous Gresso phone offers you inferior design and features for a premium price.

Why We Don’t Rate the Optimus Keyboard

February 25th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
The Optimus keyboard shares something in common with the Segway. It is an idea which requires an overly complicated design solution to a problem that may be marginal but requires sophisticated engineering to solve. The proper term for this is a gimmick and gadgets which are innovative gimmicks have a curious property, they generate lots of discussion on blogs etc. but few people actually buy them.

Despite the hype the Optimus keyboard looks like an expensive failure, and nothing quite shows it in the worst light than this tacky and predictable World of Warcraft theme.


This week, the overall value of everything created by American companies since 1997, the year Steve Jobs returned to Apple, as measured by the stock market, was valued at $0.Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 and started a decade long period of corporate innovation and development: changing retail and product design; inventing new entirely new products and form factors such as the iPod; reshaping the music industry through iTunes; the cellphone market with the iPhone and delivering the worlds most sophisticated computing platform with OS X. Since nothing shows pace of change better than technology, to demonstrate what Apple have done while the entire marketplace has theoretically done nothing, here is a retrospective list of our favorite Apple moments over the last decade, under the helm of Steve Jobs. Vote for yours.

The same giant multi-axle machines that are used in shipyards to transport impossibly large bits of half built ships are also used to wheel into place pieces of bridges, radio telescopes and, of course space vehicles. Here are 15 different varieties.

There is something intensely creepy about submarines, not least because, as we found out from the two that had crashed into each other recently, they carry a thousand times the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb in a claustrophobic metal sarcophagus powered by the same stuff as the bombs. Because of this, and because of their featureless exteriors which hide immense complexity they provide the same kind of kick that a complicated gadget in a smooth case provides. Just like gadgets its interesting to see how they work when they are being assembled or taken apart. Here are our favorite views from the science fiction like decommissioning of Soviet attack subs to rotting reactor cores to components being wheeled through English roads.

Ted Stevens was right, the Victorian Internet consisted, quite literally, of a ‘Network of Tubes’. Paris, London, Prague and Vienna had extensive networks of pneumatic tubes which delivered messages in capsules. In New York 5 million mail messages passed every day through an underground pneumatic system, and a network in Berlin delivered hot meals directly to people’s homes suggesting that kitchens would no longer be needed in the future. Today these systems can still be purchased where they are used in places like hospitals where samples are passed between departments.

Early brick sized cellphones spanned the end of the 80s and beginning of the 90s when Nokia was still remembered as the manufacturer of jackboots for the Soviet army. The distinction between carphones and portable cellular phones was blurred and even today the largest cellphone outlet in the UK is called the Carphone Warehouse.Here is a nostalgic lineup of videos of some of these with 2 notable inclusions, the Nokia 9000, which you could use to access a server from more effectively than an iPhone or Blackberry, in the early days of the web and the Iridium, whose demise is one of the few examples of technology regress: there is no longer a truly global cellphone network, but there used to be.

oobject – the kindle 2 from a design perspective

February 9th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago

Superficially the Kindle 2 is a marked improvement over its origami-like, unconventional shaped predecessor, it looks like a large minimalist paper Blackberry with obligatory rounded corners.

More »


Here are some of the best finds from the last month, that didn’t fit into any particular category but were special, nonetheless. From the workshop where the Statue of Liberty was being made, to a Chinese factory with people working inside a steam press, a mockup plane for taxiing practice and an impossibly thin air tensegrity structure bridge, vote for your faves.

BlackBerry with OLED Keyboard [Concept]

February 6th, 2009 link to (permalink)

5 years ago
Remember the legendary Optimus Maximus keyboard that you’ve never bought? Billy May had an idea to adopt the technology into BlackBerry. He proposed the concept for MozPhone project, a design effort initiated by him.

Watching robots get more and more sophisticated over half a century of commercials is fascinating. Trends evolve from the erector set inspired Mr Machine and terrifying Garloo to cute 70s robot buddies, through the Japanese dominated 80s and hip hop and rave culture inspired 90s.

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.

Below is the strangest skyscraper proposal you will ever see, an upside down underground tower block lit by a giant mirror.From deflecting the suns rays with mirrors to light up an entire Austrian town which is shrouded in shadow to fiber optic channels which light underground caverns, combinations of heliostats (sun trackers) and light pipes are being increasing used to create architectural lighting effects which are entirely natural.Included here are a variety of technique, including the recent park heliostats, in New York and light pipes which channel daylight from street level to the subway in Berlin. Vote for your faves.

“Around San Francisco, that mecca of art and technology, Oobject has become a favorite gadgety diversion–and inspiration”
CNET

Oobject is like a digital Wunderkammer comprising visual lists of man-made objects. Oobject may look like yet another, crappy, weird things site, but delve in, I’ve put an unhealthy amount of effort into it. –


.

Solar cookers are reflectors which focus sunlight enough to heat food, but they are a simple eco-friendly gadget that happens to look interesting and comes in a large variety of interesting forms.Because solar cookers are shiny and look like satellite dishes, they have a particularly futuristic appearance which often creates an extreme contrast with the surroundings where they are used, as some of these testify.

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.

The fact that architecture is deriving inspiration from the foam-like membrane structures of cells is ironic since the word cell in biology derives from the architecture of monks cells in monasteries. Cell structures have come full circle with innovative structures at all scales, from metalized foam or ceramic foam structural materials to computer derived lattices based on mathematical cell properties.

Inflatable structures have the advantage of being able to be deployed very quickly, and the disadvantage that they are vulnerable to failure, over time. This makes them ideal for temporary shelters, from mine accidents to military deployment, festivals and even on the moon.

From the ground, these inflatable tanks, missile launchers and planes look like children’s toys. Yet from the air, these objects are almost indistinguishable from the real thing, complete with accurate thermal signatures over areas such as windows. Think what fun you could have playing havoc with Google Maps and some of these.

Included here are regular freeway loads over 100ft in length, which you would probably not want to get stuck behind. However, our favorites are the unbelievably large coker oven trailers which have 160 wheels each, and the specialized boeing transporter, with its secondary cab beneath the trailer, at road level.

http://www.oobject.com/category/12-haptic-interfaces/One 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.

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.

Alain Robert, known as Spiderman, climbs the tallest buildings in the world, without ropes. Last summer he famously scaled Frank Genry’s new tower for the New York Times, in Midtown Manhattan. Here is a list of video footage of him climbing a dozen different structures.

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