Thursday, October 15, 2009

Motion mimicking boxing robot toy set

Motion mimicking boxing robot toy set
A pair of hand-held controllers with on-board sensors capture your hand motions in real time and translate them into little robotic punches directed at your similarly armed opponent. The set includes two robots and two pairs of infrared controllers.

"The infrared controllers have built-in tilt sensors and accelerometers to detect when you move your hands--when you punch, the robot punches; directional buttons control forward and backward movement. Each robot has a target area in the middle of its chest; when struck, it registers a "hit" on the four-LED display just above the target. Four hits disables a robot and wins a bout."

Now if we could just scale these up to the size of monster trucks...

Here is the link for more info on the Motion Mimicking Robotic Pugilists.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Making Wood Trucks & Construction Vehicles

Making Wood Trucks & Construction Vehicles
Time to start making some gift for the holidays. Why not make some wooden trucks and vehicles? Beautiful, durable, and without those annoying sound chips.

Product Description:
An old favorite gets a fabulous freshening up, with full-color images throughout -- but the projects remain as wonderful as ever, appealing to children of all ages. Bulldozers, dump trucks, loaders, and forklifts, each with a variety of moving parts: all these toy vehicles are included for the making, with plenty of diagrams, very detailed instructions that proceed logically and clearly from part to part, and images of the final product. Try a box trailer with a semi-cab, doors, axles, wheels (with simulated tread, if you like), and mud flaps. They're fun to craft and fun to receive.

Here's the link for the book on Making Wood Trucks & Construction Vehicles

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Great Book of Wooden Toys: 50 Easy Projects

Great Book of Wooden Toys: More Than 50 Easy-to-Build Projects
This looks like a good book on making wooden toys. Anyone out there have this one?

From the book description:

Detailed and copiously illustrated, this in-depth handbook offers instruction for constructing more than 50 wooden toys designed to appeal to a child’s sense of imagination and playfulness. A brief introduction covers the basic techniques—gluing, sanding, and making wheels—and each project presents a meticulous diagram, a handy materials list, step-by-step instructions, and a photograph of the completed toy. Designs include stylized versions of a Model T car, a crane, and the Spirit of St. Louis airplane, as well as projects specifically for beginning woodworkers, such as pull-along trains and circus animals. Instructions for finishing and detailing ensure that the completed crafts will last for years.

Here is the link for more information about Great Book of Wooden Toys: More Than 50 Easy-to-Build Projects

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Great used book - How to Make Animated Toys

Great used book - How to Make Animated Toys
A very affordable volume (purchased used) this book features detailed plans and scaled drawings for 30 different animated wooden toys. The author also goes into some detail about the processes of designing and building good toys -- including writing about child-safe materials and finishes. Projects include a waddling duck, a hopping rabbit and a lumbering gorilla.

Here's Amazon's page where you can buy a used copy of How to Make Animated Toys

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Friday, July 03, 2009

The Way Toys Work - book on the science of toys

The Way Toys Work book
The full title of this intriguing book is The Way Toys Work: The Science Behind the Magic 8 Ball, Etch A Sketch, Boomerang, and More. The book covers 50 well-known toys examining their history and the technology that makes them work. Throw in a mention of DIY experiments and some reverse engineering (see below) and this book is definitely on my reading list!

From the book description on Amazon:
Discover how an Etch A Sketch writes on its gray screen, why a boomerang returns after it is thrown, and how an RC car responds to a remote control device. Leaving no detail unrevealed, the guide includes original patent-application blueprints and photos of the “guts” of several devices. Inventors and museum curators also offer their observations of favorite gizmos while dispelling (or confirming) several toy legends. Complete with explanations of do-it-yourself experiments and tips on reverse engineering old toys to observe their interior mechanics, this entertaining and informative reference even provides pointers on how budding toy makers can build their own toys using only recycled materials and a little ingenuity.

Here is the link to The Way Toys Work: The Science Behind the Magic 8 Ball, Etch A Sketch, Boomerang, and More on

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Making Moving Toys: 30 Quick and Easy Projects

Making Moving Toys: 30 Quick and Easy Projects to Make
I don't have this book myself (yet), but it looks like it could be a lot of fun. Making Moving Toys offers instructions and templates to make 30 different types of moving toys out of common materials. The projects range from spinning tops, wind-powered figures, paper airplanes, a carousel, a climbing monkey, a zoetrope, and many more. See? Fun!

Here's the link to Making Moving Toys: 30 Quick and Easy Projects to Make.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Galloping dinosaur vintage mechanical toy plans

Galloping dinosaur vintage mechanical toy plans
The folks over at The Modern Mechanics blog have scanned and typed up the plans for this animated wooden dinosaur pull-toy.

From the original article:
A TOY saurian from the far-away past proves to be a refreshing novelty to the youngsters. The toy is extremely simple to make, as there are only six major parts. In addition to these, four wheels and some wire complete the whole thing.

Here is the article with photographs and drawings of the dinosaur on The Modern Mechanics blog.

[ Thanks deanS! ]

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Teeny, tiny little remote-control robot with AI

Teeny, tiny little remote-control robot
In case you missed this over at the other day, you've got to check out this teeny, tiny little remote-control robot!

From the product description:
The World Smallest RC Robot with Artificial Intelligence (AI)!
The all-around control, you may never experience it! The 6 directions control plus 3 speed levels. Also the Robot can be controlled via Artificial Intelligence (AI) after you press the AUTO button, then the Robot can detect-and-escape from the barriers. What's more, after you press the AUTO button and Direction button, the Robot can detect-and-trace the objects. In the Trace mode, the Robot can be charged and run to the controller automatically! The controller as a Robot Station can be stored a Robot inside.

Here's a link to the product page with more images, varieties, and a somewhat hyper-active video of The World Smallest RC Robot with Artificial Intelligence.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Amazon Toy Outlet update - toys at 25% - 70% off

Amazon Toy Outlet update, 2009
Amazon informs me that they have recently updated he Toys Outlet section of their site. They say that you can save 25% to 70% on a bunch of action figures, games, construction toys and more. They also have weekly specials and daily 'Gold Box' offers for toy bargains.

I'm guessing you, Dear Readers, will be most interested in the following sub-sections of the Toys Outlet:

* Construction Toys
* Hobbies and Models
* Learning & Exploration

Play! Have fun!

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Sumo wrestler robot with wind-up generator

Sumo Wrestler Robot with Wind Up Generator
An attached wind-up generator allows you to create electricity to power this Sumo wrestler robot. No batteries needed, just some cranking.

Forward and reverse walking actions are controlled by which direction the generator's handle is turned. The faster you crank, the faster it moves.

While its a neat kit on its own, the real fun comes from testing your Sumo-bot against another. A flurry of cranking robot action!

Sumo Wrestler Robot Match
Here's a link for the Sumo Wrestler Robot with Wind Up Generator by Tamiya

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Mechancial toy gifts for holidays 2008 - Part 2

This is the second part of a two part post on mechanical toy gift ideas for the 2008 holiday season. Part 1 of the list may be found here.

Solar Car Book
Solar Car Book- Another great product from the folks at Klutz. It's hard to beat a instruction book that has a kit attached...or is it a kit that is has book?

Either way, at $20, this is a fun and easy way to build a little solar-powered car.

Mr. Machine
We owe it to ourselves to remember some classic mechanical toys. Mr. Machineis just such a classic. Like the 1960s version, the real fun is taking Mr. Machine apart and putting him back together. At $100, it may seem a lot for a toy, but how much is the education acquired worth? There should be one in every household, I say.

Wind-up toys from Kikkerland
Wind-up toys from Kikkerland- Wind-up toys have a whole new contemporary look. Kikkerland makes an assortment of wonderful walking, jittering, and squiggling critters. They cost between $9 to $18 each. Best of all: no batteries required now or ever.

Working Wood Trebuchet
Working Wood Trebuchet DIY Kit- No childhood is complete unless you have build a siege engine. These all-wood kits are great for the budding engineer or as a scale models for adults with a mind to build a full-size version in the back yard one day. The trebuchet kit sells for $40. You supply a hobby knife and white glue.

Tomy I-SOBOT Robot- This was good deal last year given that this is a very capable humanoid robot toy. This year however it is a STEAL at $85. For the the young, the toy can be used as is. For the advanced, sites are springing up all over the internet with instructions on how to hack this 6 inch tall wonder.

I hope this two part series has given you some good ideas for mechanical toy gifts this year.

If none of these items quite seem to satisfy your gift needs, head over to The Automata / Automaton Store for an assemblage of mechanical, automata, and robot toys. You might also peruse the MAKE magazine store for all manner of gifts for keen minds -- young and old.

Seasons Greetings to All!

[ Thanks again to the members of The Automata / Automaton Group on Facebook for their help in compiling this list! ]

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mechanical toy gifts for the holidays 2008 - Part 1

You've still got a few shopping days left! Here is a list of mechanical toys that can be ordered online and at your home in plenty of time for the holidays.

Battery Science: Make Widgets That Work and Gadgets That Go
Battery Science: Make Widgets That Work and Gadgets That Go - An affordable, creative kit for making all kinds of crazy little contraptions with little more than a small battery-powered motor. At $15, this is a great value and great fun.

More fun engineering from Klutz:
Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes

Karakuri: Bow Shooting Boy
Karakuri: Bow Shooting Boy by Gakken - A kit for the advance or ambitious maker, this is a plastic recreation of a famous Japanese karakuri. The boy actually picks up arrows, places them on the bow, and shoots at a mini target. Amazing! At $150 this may be best for the "big kid" in your life or a gifted youngster. A different Gakken Karakuri kit may be found at the MAKE magazine store.

Wooden Pinball Baseball
Front Porch Classics Baseball- I finally had a chance to play at a friend's house and I am pleased to say that this is a really great game. It's well made and doesn't take up a ton of room. This rather nice model runs $80, but there are versions for about half the price. Good for adults and kids.

Kluz and Lego bundled packages
Lego Crazy Action Contraptions and Lego Crazy Action Contraptions: A Lego Inventions Book- Both spiral-bound books ($22 and $14, respectively) have clear instructions with step-by-step diagrams and come with a small pouch of LEGO bricks for the projects. Having additional basic Lego brickson hand is a good idea for the first book, and required for the second.

We'll be back tomorrow with part 2 of our last-minute mechanical gift suggestions. You can also peruse The Automata / Automaton Store where our staff has added hundreds of items that are available at

[ My thanks to the esteemed members of The Automata / Automaton Group on Facebook for many of these suggestions! ]

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Toys, Robots, and Steampunk gifts - from MAKE

Toys, robots and gifts - from keen minds at MAKE
I'm hoping to offer a list of my own for mechanical toy gifts, but in the meantime I am duty-bound to point you to MAKE magazine's outstanding blog and the suggestions they have already compiled.

Here is their Top 10 unexpected toys.

Here is their excellent Holiday Gift Guide to Robots.

Here is their Steampunk Gift Guide for 2008.

In general, the items in their online store -- The Maker Shed -- are very well chosen and bound to stimulate technical discovery. You can't really go wrong there.

Keep up the good work, MAKE!

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Interview with Amy Jenkins, Toy Designer & Artist

Plush robots by Amy JenkinsAmy Jenkins has been involved with industrial grade design and fabrication for years and is currently developing a studio in California where she can explore ideas for toy design and production. Shown here are are her some of her plush robot creations.

She recently did an interview with the San Francisco chapter of Bizaar Bizarre and was kind enough to mention The Automata / Automaton blog.

Check out some of Amy's many, many creations at the Cozy Rampage blog.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Remote Control Jousting Knights Set Toy

Remote Control Jousting Knights Set
This looks like fun...two small remote control knights on horseback. The idea is to dislodge your foe from his horse by ramming him with your blunted lance.

Here is the link for more info on the Remote Control Jousting Knights set

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Chaos Tower: Marble-Run Toy of Doom

The Chaos Tower
Perhaps this construction toy is somewhat misnamed. I mean, just look at that Lord of Anarchy in the sweater-vest and all the havoc and mayhem he is engaged in.

Despite the ambitious name, The Chaos Tower does look like good clean fun. I would wager that the laws of motion are strictly obeyed when you launch the balls into whatever marble-maze you may construct with this kit. It comes with a small outlet-powered motor to set any number of diabolical doomsday devices into motion.

Winner of numerous toy, parenting and teacher awards -- including "Toy of the Year", "Parents' Choice" and "Teachers' Choice" -- their product tag line is...and I'm not making this up...Bring on the chaos and bring on the fun.

So be it, then. Check out the Chaos Tower and bring on the chaos!

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Imaginarium Techno Gears Mega Marble Mania

Imaginarium Techno Gears Mega Marble Mania
Take a look at Imaginarium's 450-piece Mega Marble Mania marble run. I want it just to have it on my desk. The description says that this marble run comes with power lifter, racer model, and sound. That's about all I know about this interesting looking toy.

Here is the product page for the Imaginarium Techno Gears Mega Marble Mania.

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