Tech Weekly: Making Magic
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The rhetoric of technology is steeped in magic. After all, as Arthur C. Clarke famously mused, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." But the heap of cold hard silicon and circuits that we call technology is often responsible for an entirely different kind of magic. Not illusion or trickery, but a very real power to live out our fantasies.
This week's Technology projects are all about the stuff that dreams are made of.
Last year, Keaton Weimer trick-or-treated as Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon. One detail that set Keaton's costume apart was the fact that it came complete with a scale replica of a dragon. This year, his parents and the volunteers behind The Magic Wheelchair are doing it all again, five times over. They've assembled a crack team of artists and creators, and they even have the special effects savvy of the Stan Winston School behind them. There's no telling what this year's costumes will look like, but one thing's for sure: five kids are about to have the best Halloween ever.
We could resign ourselves to a future of tapping on glass, or we can do something about it. The team behind Avakai, a screen-free, connected toy for kids, has opted for the latter. Avakai are beautifully designed wood toys that let kids practice social interaction. A series of taps on the head will send musical notes, or you can stroke the top to set a mood LED on the front and send it with a hug. The closer the Avakai are to one another, the stronger the haptic response on the receiving end. Maybe kids will use it to put a whole new spin on hide and seek, or, more likely, they'll find new ways to play we haven't even thought of yet.
Odds are good that, at some point in your childhood, you swung around an imaginary lightsaber. Maybe sometimes, when nobody is looking, you still do. If so, Adaptive Saber Parts is the project for you. Featuring an easy-to-use modular system, Adaptive Saber Parts allows aspiring force-wielders to create a totally custom saber. The kits include simple electronics, which, when installed, add motion-sensing, lights, and sound. And if dueling is your thing, you can even get a super sturdy, light-up blade. Truly, an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.
An underground park sounds like a science-fiction fantasy, but the folks behind The Lowline have been working tirelessly to make it a reality. In 2012 they launched their first project, revealing to the world their plans to turn a century-old former trolley station in NYC's Lower East Side into a vibrant public gathering space. Later that year they exhibited a full scale, proof of concept installation called "Imagining the Lowline" in a warehouse. The next step is developing the technology to get sunlight down into the underground space. So they're back on Kickstarter, with the goal of creating a long-term solar device testing laboratory and public exhibition. If they can do it — if they can turn an unused underground space into a park — well, it's only the beginning.
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