Don’t just look at these Rube Goldberg machines, play with them

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. Perchang (iOS) BY PERCHANG LIMITED The over-engineered contraptions of Perchang do look a lot like Rube Goldberg machines but they differ very slightly. That difference is that they aren’t strictly there for you to look at; you must also operate them. The goal is simple each time: ensure a pre-requisite number of tiny balls enter the hole before the timer finishes. Without your interaction, this won’t happen, and so you have to press your thumbs on the screen to activate fans, or flippers, or tilt a…


Game developer Barbie reattempts to open doors for young girls

Mattel’s Barbie is a woman of many jobs thanks to her careers line. Teacher, babysitter, pilot, lifeguard, nurse, chef… the list goes on. The latest addition to Barbie’s resume is game developer, and she’s been very well received, selling out on Mattel’s site in a matter of days. Whether these were sales from adults for themselves or for children we don’t know, but it’s clear people are excited. Many may remember the impressively tone-deaf Barbie: I Can Be A Computer Engineer, which featured such infamous exchanges as: “‘I’m only creating the design ideas,’ Barbie says, laughing. ‘I’ll need Steven’s and…


Optikammer will let you play with the 19th century’s weirdest toys

In 1878, famous industrialist Leland Stanford (yes, that Stanford) wanted the answer to a very important, deeply contested question: do all four of a horse’s hooves ever come off the ground when they gallop? So he did what all millionaires do and he spent money, commissioning the photographer Eadweard Muybridge to photograph a horse in motion. The resulting series, known as Sallie Gardner at a Gallop, is perhaps one of the most famous early images and a precursor to the technology that would be used by the Lumière brothers in the 1890s to produce films. By taking 24 cameras and rigging them around a track,…


Infinite Arms aims to make the toy game adult-friendly

When Activision’s Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure first launched in 2011, it resonated with older kids by balancing the act of imagination with the act of playing a videogame. While it was more structured than a more free-form toy like Legos, Skylanders created the illusion that, by placing plastic figurines on a light-up pedestal, players could bring inanimate objects to life. Adults didn’t understand this. As an added bonus for Activision, this was a natural point of entry into the toy industry, and the ability to bolster sales with a physical product line was something that everyone from Nintendo to Lego would…


Internet-connected toys spark a new era of play

This article is part of a collaboration with iQ by Intel. From building blocks to Cabbage Patch Kids, children’s toys have often relied on the player’s active imagination. A new era of touchscreen cubes, rolling robots and other Internet-connected toys engage kids, teaching them about the world. Overall, the market for toys is on the rise, with marketing research firm NPD Group estimating a 7 percent sales growth across 11 major global markets. Meanwhile, licensing industry publication License! Global predicts connected toys will be a significant trend in 2016. Take, for example, the plastic kitchen set of old, which did little more than provide…


Polygon Shredder is all the fun of confetti with none of the mess

As I tool around with the cascading confetti waves of web developer Jaume Sanchez Elias’ Polygon Shredder, I feel a bit like Moses parting the red sea. Except this sea isn’t just red, but also blue, yellow, white, and I think I saw a little chartreuse in there. If you ever had a pet tornado in the ‘90s, Polygon Shredder follows a similar principle. As a sort of desk toy for the digital age, Polygon Shredder works by generating a certain amount of multicolor cubes based on your preference, then shredding them into paper-thin strips and tossing them into the…

Monument Valley

Monument Valley’s illusory architecture could become a Lego set

Monument Valley (2014) and Lego. It just feels right, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s that the puzzle game’s isometric perspective gives us the privileged view of god games, in which we build and destroy. Or perhaps more simply it’s the attention the game draws towards it brightly colored geometric mazes, eager for us to prod and spin them. Either way, there’s something about Monument Valley that makes it ripe for a transformation into modular Lego blocks. Now, there’s actually a chance of that happening. The first step towards this end goal has been made through the proposal of a Monument Valley set over…

Fabulous Beasts

Fabulous Beasts makes the toy game physical again

Before there was anything else in this world, there was Bear. Bear was the perfect creature to start off a fresh new ecosystem: big and burly, with a stable base of four flat feet. His back, though hunched over in an arch, was unmovable. And so my quest to create a fabulous world of colors and fauna and water and flame would begin here, with Bear. Only moments later, as Eagle and Hippo and Fire and Water tumbled off Bear’s back onto the linoleum floor of a New York City cafe, did I realize how wrong I’d been. But no…


Modbox expands the playful possibilities of toys with virtual reality

Imagine, if you will, a white empty volume. It’s a room. Now fill it with toys. Stuff ’em in there willy nilly. There’s a basketball, balloons, toy swords, bowling pins, propellers, nets, large die, colorful blocks to climb or topple over. Send a bunch of kids into this room and what do you think will happen? They’ll make up games as they play with each other and these toys, probably having the time of their lives. This is what Modbox will enable, except it all takes place in virtual reality, and that means no one has to clear up the…