The kit itself consists of an assortment of laser-cut cardboard pieces that can slot together in a regular, geometric fashion to form complex and weird structures. While the simplest components of the kits are just circles with slotted rims, the kits also contain a wide variety of decorative pieces (e.g. wings, hands, mustaches), mechanical components (e.g. wheels, gears, levers) and structural units (e.g. long beams, "peanut" shapes, semicircles) which can all be combined in countless ways. So far, I've seen people make some amazing things - machines, sculptures, monsters, vehicles, buildings, furniture and even a primitive programmable computer - just using pre-cut cardboard and some 1/4" wooden dowel.
Here's one example of something that can be made with the kit, which is now available on the Instructables Store:
Not convinced? These are some reasons why I think this kit makes a great toy:
- Modular and expandable design: Like Lego or K'NEX, there's no limit to the size or complexity of what you can build.
- Simplicity with depth: Even a toddler could make something fun from the kit, but older kids and adults (i.e big kids) with an artistic or engineering mindset will be able to make rather spectacular creations.
- Incredibly low material cost: Corrugated cardboard costs next to nothing. If you have access to a laser cutter, this is practically a free toy.
- Entirely recyclable pieces: When you're done with it, just recycle or compost it.
- Renewable parts: If a component becomes damaged, it's quick and cheap to cut out a new one and recycle the old one.
- Open source design: I've included all of the kit's specifications so that people can design their own pieces. I'd love to see how others expand on this basic simple toy. My dream would be to see this develop as a community project, with people all over the world adding their own new pieces to the collective toy box.
- Hacker-friendly: One of the things I love about this as a toy is that it discourages any attitude of reverence towards its components. All the pieces are replaceable cardboard, so people automatically feel comfortable modifying and corrupting the original pieces. If you're afraid of breaking a toy, you'll never really be playing with it to its fullest.
Step 1: The backstory
Every year at Autodesk University, some kind of contest is held in which the attendees can show off their design prowess and win some pretty snazzy prizes. For Autodesk University 2011, I helped organize the 123D Fab! Challenge, a contest intended to promote awareness of the Autodesk's new 123D software family.
My brief was to design some sort of toy which could be laser-cut from a few sheets of cardboard, allowed for some degree of creativity or personal expression, would capture the maker spirit, and would also incorporate the 123D brand identity.