Get out the headphones or turn up your speakers and prepare to be impressed by archaic 19th century engineering. Relying on dozens of moving parts including gears, springs, and a bellows, this small contraption built in 1890 was designed to do one thing: perfectly mimic the random chatter of a song bird. At first I expected to hear a simple repeating pattern of tweets, but the sounds produced by the mechanism are actually quite complex and vary in pitch, tone, and even volume to create a completely realistic song. I think if you closed your eyes you might not be able to tell the difference between this and actual birdsong. It’s believed the machine was built 120 years ago in Paris by Blaise Bontems, a well-known maker of bird automata and was recently refurbished by Michael Start over at The House of Automata. Can any of you ornithologists identify the bird? If so, get in touch. (via the automata blog)
Making the rounds this year on a couple of design-y gift guides is The Present, a clock designed by Booklyn-based creative firm m ss ng p eces. The clock automatically sets itself to the current calendar date when you insert two AA batteries and then takes a year to make an entire revolution as the single hand highlights colors associated with the passing season. An original run of the clock was successfully funded on Kickstarter last year, but the clock is now available to the general public through their website.
Latvian conceptual artist and creative director Voldemars Dudums created this insanely clever bird feeder using an old computer keyboard and some cubes of bacon fat. When the birds would fly down to snack their inadvertent key presses were fed to an api that parsed each little tap into a bonafide tweet on the @hungry_birds Twitter account (fyi, these particular feathered friends became political during the U.S. elections, so there’s that). The birds, mostly tomtits, would tweet roughly 100 times each day and could even be watched live over on Birds on Twitter. It even landed Dudums a people’s choice award for Guerrilla Innovation in Advertising. Unfortunately the project went offline in March of this year, as that’s when the cryptic avian tweets cease. I feel like a schmuck for being so late to the party on this, but reading through the archive of tweets is still pretty entertaining for random literary gems like “OOOMMMGGGGG” and “AIAIAIA”. (via izmia)
As part of the 2012 Archstoyanie festival in Nikola-Lenivets, Russia (from what I can tell it’s kind of like a small version of Burning Man but… with architecture and forests) design firm Salto created this gargantuan trampoline installation called Fast Track. Measuring nearly 170 ft. (51 meters) the bouncy road is nearly the length of a city block. According to the designers:
“Fast track” is a integral part of park infrastructure, it is a road and an installation at the same time. It challenges the concept of infrastructure that only focuses on technical and functional aspects and tends to be ignorant to its surroundings. “Fast track” is an attempt to create intelligent infrastructure that is emotional and corresponds to the local context. It gives the user a different experience of moving and percieving the environment.
Personally I sense the seeds of a new olympic sport, or a solid replacement for the slow people movers in airports. Here’s some more photos from Archstoyanie 2012. (via knstrct and notcot)
Botanical artist Makoto Azuma (previously here and here) just completed work on this lovely bonsai tree made entirely from LEGO bricks. The excruciating detail from the undulating moss surface to the craggy, multicolored tree branches is clear evidence of Azuma’s intimate understanding of the botanical world. If I encountered an actual set like this you couldn’t take my money fast enough. See a bit more detail here. (via spoon and tamago)
Sand castle artist Calvin Seibert manages to construct nearly impossible shapes from one of the world’s most delicate mediums. While Colossal has seen its fair share of art made with sand I’ve never seen anything so perfectly angular and geometric. See much more of his work over on Flickr. (via fasels suppe)
French designer and woodworker Malet Thibaut just released this limited edition “Art Toy” undoubtedly inspired by the iconic Lego figures. The toys are quite larger than their traditional yellow plastic counterparts, and it’s probably important to note that although the limbs appear flexible they are not actually hinged. Regardless I think they’d make a pretty awesome gift for the Lego-obsessed. Pick ‘em up on Etsy. Unfortunately sold out at the moment. (via behance)
100,000 Stars is a new experiment for Chrome web browsers (or any other WebGL browser like Firefox or Safari) that lets you interactively explore the Milky Way galaxy with your mouse and scroll wheel. I found it to be a bit more cumbersome on my laptop trackpad so if you’re in the same position click the ‘Take a Tour’ button for a pretty lovely demo. (via the awesomer)