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Hoberman Sphere Building Blocks 116

jmoyers writes "From the people that brought you the Hoberman Sphere comes the Expandagon Construction System. It allows you to build your own folding structures. "Each building block (called an Expandagon) is made of preassembled parts that allow it to expand and contract. This means that you can build very complex expanding shapes easily, using only a few building blocks." "
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Hoberman Sphere Building Blocks

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...takes the patented Unfolding Technology...

    Does this mean Chuck Hoberman is going to sue me for unfolding things? This is horrible - IANAL, but is there any evidence that he might not have invented unfolding? Someone should set up a legal defense fund for people being accused of intellectual property theft by unfolding stuff. I'd say EFF or someone should get involveed, but I guess this isn't really an electronic domain...

    Also, is folding still public domain? If so, you better be careful, because once you fold something, you're stuck unless you want to break a few laws! I hope someone puts up a FAQ on unfolding, to get the word out to the community - I'll even mirror it myself, putting me at risk for the same legal problems people are having with DeCSS. What we need now is someone to crack the unfolding scheme, or else come up with something even better.

    Although I've always been more of a fan of crumpling and uncrumpling rather than fold/unfold, it does have its uses, and I don't want to be paying royalties every time I do my laundry. We need to fight this!

  • by Anonymous Coward
  • That's funny. I've taken a fairly stock IRIX installation - without any other licenses or anything - and installed the gcc package from on it. Then, I built my own gcc with it. Everything works smashingly. Judging by your post, I'd guess you left the old CAPS LOCK key on and were surprised to find that GCC, AS, and LD aren't on your system. SGI makes great stuff overall; I guess you just can't appreciate it. Enjoy your overclocked linux-powered 800 MHz gamez box, d00d.
  • So, that's what a troll is.
    I always wondered.
    Now I've been done!

    You live and learn ;-)
  • Piss off.

    You're too dim witted to even understand the possibilities of a way to contruct convex hull containers of arbitrary interesting shapes

    Bright minds like Corrinne's are what enabled you to post your trolls.

    I can't believe I responded to this.

  • Nice. I'd pay for those. There was something I had years ago called "Tensegritoy", which consisted of small dowels with slots in each end, loops of bungie/elastic cord, and little plastic caps to hold the cord in the could make all kinds of nifty squishable shapes with that. Don't know if it still exists or not though. I think you could get them in pretty large sets, too. They scaled better than the Hoberman thing looks like it would.

    And speaking of nifty things to be done with polygonal shapes (yeah, it's offtopic. sorry)...can we have Prey, please? I've been waiting a long time, and I don't know that I'm a representative sample of your target audience, but I'd certainly rather have Prey than Duke Nukem Forever...

  • Pardon me for not remembering the title of the movie, but it has to do with "mind gymnastic" or somekind of "brain olympic", in which a young boy, supposingly a GENUINE GENIUS, was brought into the world of the "mind gymnastic" but he was surrounded by "genius wannabes" and in the competition, the little boy got bored and took some pencils and rubber band and he made an elastic skeletal globe that looks very similar to the picture I saw in the website.

    Can anyone confirm that the thing the movie has shown (pencil and rubberband) is the same thing as the one this discussion thread is focused on?

  • How I wish I had "toys" like this one when I was a small kid. Instead of "killer robots" figures or mind-numbling nintendos or lame "games" the kindy teachers had devised and forced us to participate in.

    I rather spent my time with toys that encourage me to explore and think and investigate and learn, rather than "I kill you, my robot is better than your robot, MUAHAHAHAHA !" or "Barbie, meet Ken, let's have lunch".

    When I have kids, I rather they play pokers and chess and toys like the ones we are discussing, including Legos, than lame games that shut the brain down.

    Kids of today and tomorrow are blessed with so many good and useful toys. My only hope is parents will start use more of their time to pick toys that encourage development of the brains than giving their kids toys that encourages violences and/or vogue.

  • Thanks again !
  • Comment removed based on user account deletion
  • > P.S. Yes, I used to play with Lego. And chemicals. Rockets. And old radios. Transistors. Repairing
    > things. And so on. Any kind of toy which had screws in it.

    And now, what do you play with? Yourself?
    " It's a ligne Maginot []-in-the-sky "

  • Apparently you overestimate your peers, troll.

  • Well, since I could not moderate the story...

  • My kids have some of these expanable play houses [] from PlayHut. [] These are too cool! - toss the bag into the truck, and head for the beach! After folding [], it stores easily on the closet shelf.
    Edges are for leadin' not bleedin'
  • Some poor dumbass with a lot of time on his hands and a senseless grudge against somebody he's probably never even met. Get a life, stupid.
  • actually, this is a pretty good point. i would be curious as to what exactly the patent is.

    i would also be curious as to whether the patent is invalidated by prior art in the form of, say, Zaks. i'm not sure if anyone here remembers Zaks [late 80s/early 90s] but they were interlocking geometric thingies that flexed where they locked together in such a way that may or may not be similar to whatever "folding" is. I wish i still had my Zaks set, they were pretty cool.

    seriously though, things like legos or zaks or "expandagons" are more or less what patents were invented for.. a nonobvious, specific _implementation_ of an idea (not an idea itself), which the company in question took the time to develop.. so i don't think we should be mad at these people for patenting this expandagon thing, unless they really did patent "folding" or something.
    still i'm not going to buy any of these because i am not going to trust anything connected in any way with this GIF. [] Anything that says outright it's going to be fun usually isn't.. -_-
  • This is going to be excellent. The Hoberman sphere [] is very cool and looks good hanging in the living room, but doesn't allow for much interaction. This should be both interesting to look at and fun to play with. Also makes a great learning tool for geometric designs.

    Too bad you can't order direct from the site. But I know a science store in my neighborhood that will likely carry them.

    I'm excited. I haven't played with anything prebuilt like this for 20 years. Does anyone remember a set of translucent blue plastic triangles that snapped together to form pyramids and other multi-sided shapes? I wish I still had those.
  • Re: The following are some toys I would enjoy.

    You forgot the BFG9000 and pocket version of global thermonuclear war. (Both being the only proper way to `squish a geometric form`.)

  • Grow the fuck up and stop playing with toys
  • The MFC maybe?

    [ c h a d o k e r e ] []
  • "My 2c (your US$0.33c)" Yes, unfortunately I think you've hit upon one of the reasons without meaning to. I think the intent was that the entire world would benefit from the technology [see the African "Ring of Fire"]. Many technologies were created in the United States and/or countries with the resources. This in no way makes the US "better" than any other country. It is simply the country that supplied the technology. It is interesting to note that many of the developing countries in Africa are the quickest to adopt the newer technologies because there was no previous infrastructure to be a support or hindrance. Microsoft has the largest share of the desktop market at the moment, and is the likely source of the insensitivity perceived by you I would think. However, let's not forget that the internationally developed Linux is designed to run on the same hardware. The release of the Crusoe chip from Transmeta [oh dear, North Americans again] could push it further out into the world. Mr. Gates is going to encounter many new ideas in his push to the world outside of the US's borders. So what would you do to improve South Africa? Does it need to be improved? Am I to believe that South Africa possesses a more correct world view? Would I want to visit your country? Would I be welcome? What do you think about Hoberman Spheres [so we don't get moderated out of existence]?
  • Really. With all your billions, don't you have anything better to do than take an hour out of your day to troll on /.?
  • hmmm yes thats just what my world is missing!

    how soon could we get them and could i get mine gift ( giped ) rapped?

    #include "standard_disclaimer.h"
  • Is this really important enough for its own story?

  • Hoberman spheres rock. There's this glow in the dark one that is a fantastic club toy :).
  • That's patently false. I don't know about Islam, but there isn't any such concept as 'hell' or 'Satan' in Judaism.
    Traser, an Agnostic Atheist
  • Hoberman's dream of the hoberman sphere plaything is some thing far more intersting than the expandagon sets he has right now.

    The idea is that the toy in it's compacted shape would be a playset for something along the lines of GI-Joes or something like that. The playset could then be expanded into a large fort that is very similar to the playset that the child could play in himself.

    Pretty neat, but still far off
  • They look complicated, which I guess is the idea since they are for children (or the child in all of us). Personally, I'll stick to my legos. Its my OCD that makes me want to stick to rigid squares.
  • The book on the "next generation" you want to name yourself has already been written and they're called Gen13. So's the book.

  • heh, mine is -9
  • I got one of these last summer. It wasn't fun.

    By the way, this is an unusally high number of Troll\Offtopic posts for a solitary Slashdot article. Is it just me, or do we need a "" for in between articles?

  • Is it just me, or is that post really contradicting?

    The guy is quoting the bible, yet look at the sig...

    -- Dr. E --
  • 3. You say you do not believe God exist because their is no proof that God exist. Why do you always fail to say that there is no proof that God does not exist?

    Hey, there's no proof that I'm not god, either. So does that mean I am?

    Kick ass.

    Dr. Eldarion
  • What the hell??

    First post... "informative"

    Second post... "interesting"


    I guess if he just catted /dev/urandom and then copied it over he'd get like a 4 or 5
  • in my childhood i used to play alot with LEGO and had full shelves of LEGO in my room. i didnt know till now there's something newer than LEGO, i saw one of those balls long ago, but i didnt know that they are ajustable and buildable and you can design new shapes with them. anyways, after browsing a little their website, i find the folding thing cool, but still LEGO will be my favorite toy, with all the pumps, motors, wheels, heh, LEGO rocks, but it's refreshing to see things like those Hoberman construction toys.
  • Actually, I agree with you. I think it's neat, but I think it really belongs as a "quickie". This isn't as appealing as... say... bashing the CCA/MPAA or putting borg hardware on ol' Bill...

    If you can't figure out how to mail me, don't.
  • Kids could build a little expandable playhouse, and then just pull on the blocks to make it big enough to fit in! Then, you could toss it in the back of your truck, and they could bring it to a friend's house! My cousin's kids would probably get a super kick out of it.

    If you really wanted to extrapolate on this, you could use the same mechanics to make dollhouses that kids could expand big enough to fit in.
  • Just one note on Encarta ... In one of the first versions of encarta (think it was '95) My hometown (Örebro in Sweden) had an entry stating that the main industry was shoe-making and shipping minerals.

    Ok, so I was quite impressed that "we" had an article at all, but the info in it was true approx 100 years ago. Since then, I've always tried to get an second opinion ... =)

    Btw .. Shouldn't that be "Generation Z" ? (I know I'm generation Y anyway)

  • I would like a mindstorm &lt--&gt hoberman mix

  • I used to work in The Gadjet Shop in Leeds, UK during the christmas of 1997. In that shop we sold a whole range of wierd and wonderfull stuff. One of those things that we sold however was the Hoberman Sphere. It was a jumble of plastic construction that expanded from about 10 inches in diameter, to over a meter and a half in diameter. The holes in the structure were easily big enough to put your head in, and I remember 1 member of staff being able to ware it! It was priced at $78.74 equivalent and had no apparent use.

    We had customers coming too us on a regular basis to ask us what it was, and having no documentation either with it, or provided by head office we basically didn't have a clue.

    However, one evening I was trawling the internet search engines that I finially found out exactly what the Hoberman Sphere actually was designed for (mobile constuction purpouses for quick deplovment, i.e. A Marquee with a solid structure that could be brought in and deployed from the back of a lorry and removed just as easily)

    My point is, what is the point in yet another useless craze, for a product that has no use whatsoever in short term efects. Is it me or is the whole world gone crazy. At least lego and Yoyo's have use, but I personally think that it's all going crazy!
  • Tell me DeBeers doesn't do the same thing. Basically telling you that you can only show true love by spending 2 months salary on a diamond. Who the hell came up with that? Second, here in America, corporations like to have what is know as "good will" associated with their name. I know this must be a foreign concept in South Africa where a few wealthy elite get rich exploiting peasent labor, so how the community views a business doesn't matter. In america, the people who own and run the company often live in the same communities as the people who work for the company. So, you see, they actually want to see the community do well. We don't let our workers live in "shanty towns" that nobody cares about. Americans help other americans, and civic duty is still an honorable thing here.
  • I'm not supposed to be moderated up.


  • I dont go to a club in NYC/Philly without mine : ) Except I have a cool blue wire I put in mine I love being 5 again : ) hehe

  • Nothing lasts forever.

    Time is always slipping by and I rather spent my 4 hours LEARNING something than waste it in something that is unproductive.

    Who knows, maybe the things I learn in that 4 hours may one day, 20 years later, give me an insight that may worth a whole lot more than the 4 hours time I've "invested"?

  • They are really neat for the first few hours. Then you start to see the limitations.

    Then if you put a little more thought into it, you sometimes see interesting ways around the limitations.

    Regular solids work well. More complex things don't expand and contract so well.

    Unless one puts a little more thought into building them.

    If you get the little set, you think, gosh I can make some cool things with the big set. You need the big set to see that you can only build things so large before they just don't work at all.

    Until you realize that you've been looking at it wrong.

    There are also little playability issues with the extra swivel joints. They are hard to get together.

    Sometimes, true.

    Sometimes when taking things apart, they come apart in the wrong places.

    Only if you're not patient enough.

    If you really like construction toys like Lego Technics, assume you'll get 4 to 8 hours of fun out these things. Then it will sit on the shelf.

    Then, if you come back and put some more thought into it, you'll get even more fun out of it. Especially if you don't play with it by youself but with a couple of other geeks and/or kids.

  • The movie was Little Man Tate; Jodie Foster played the boy's mother. The pencil and rubber band structure is based on different principles than Hoberman objects. The pencil and rubber band structure is more closely related to tensegrity structures, which are addressed elsewhere in this discussion.
  • I'm not sure of the exact year, but it was around 10 years ago that I saw Mr. Hoberman and his spheres on TV, and he had been working on them for some time before that. His stuff is used in Satellite deployment, among other things, due to it's expandability.

    It's not simply the unfolding, but the underlying structure that remains strong and rigid underneath. Both a folded and unfolded hoberman sphere are both very strong.
  • I've never had one, but those things always intrigued me because I thought it was so neat how they could "grow" like they do. I never stopped to analyze the mechanism, however. It's a nifty invention, as we all know, and kudos to them for expanding (yes, a pun) this to other shapes. yee ha!
  • These things are cool, but Legos will always be the best...they've survived longer than all sorts of cool building toys, and they're still going strong. If I had my legos here in my dorm room I would still drag them out from time to time...but I had to leave them at home. D'oh!

    People like to talk about how building blocks and things of that sort encourage kids to learn, and so on...sometimes you wonder how much truth there really is in that. If a little kid is creative enough to build lots of stuff from legos, they're probably going to go build things (cities in the dirt, and the like) regardless of whether they have a lego set.

    It would be kinda cool to see something like Mindstorms for other building blocks, like these Expandagons...nothing like more expensive toys to play with :)
    These things look kinda like K'Nex on crack...and those things were pretty fun.
  • I find it interesting that 2 out of the 5 stores you can purchase these things from are Amazon and Etoys, stores that we are "supposed to be boycotting". With the current rate of patent idiocy and general corporate rudeness on the internet, how long before there are no places left for us to buy from because they all inspire moral objections? Just a thought...
  • my best friend got the small set for christmas, and we were really excited by it: we ripped into it, read the instruction book (very important to read this book!! other wise they wont work right, and you wont understand why).

    but then we started building things. an hour later, we were very bored: theres not much one can build with the small set, but its a large subset of the set of all things that can be built with them: simple polyhedra. blah.

    on the other hand, weve found that those little 'x-connectors' (the orange pieces) can be put together a number of ways, just by themselves, to come up with little nervous-energy trippy toys that are fun to manipulate whilst bored...

    my opinion, then: over-rated. sadly. =(

  • Is it eventually very wise to let kids meddle
    with shapeless things that can be converted
    into anything? First somebody should make sure
    that they work only in three spatial dimensions.

    And then there's the name of Dagon, which
    children will have to say aloud always when
    talking about these objects.
  • I mean, a maths schoolbook is more intriguing than this toys. Has it some nifty maths behind it? Is it about figuring things out, the way Lego is? No. Is it about being clever about finding new solutions? Connecting things? Making things work? No, I don't think so. Well, I am an East-European geek subspecies, maybe I'm just different from the West-Europeans and Americans, but I don't think this thing is geeky - at all.

    Go on - flame me, but I think The Amateur Scientist [] article series from Scientific American [] can provide you with more interesting cool things to play with.

    Not to mention Klein Bottle [].



    P.S. Yes, I used to play with Lego. And chemicals. Rockets. And old radios. Transistors. Repairing things. And so on. Any kind of toy which had screws in it.

  • Mon cher ami, ca, on laise pour les hommes en Quebec. Ca et la independence de Quebec - je pense que c'est deja beaocoup pour un garcon si intelligent comme toi, et quand a moi, tu peux monopolizer tout les deux activites.

    Il faut pas judge par lui meme, tu sais.

    Have a nice life,


    P.S. Excusez moi les erreux horrible je fais quand j'ecris en francaise, mais j'ai apprix la langue... oralement, on peux dire.

    P.S.II moi, j'ai croie que les peuples de Quebec sont si sympathic que les Francaises je connais ici.

  • " made of preassembled parts that allow it to expand and contract. This means that you can build very complex expanding shapes easily, using only a few building blocks."

    Sound like any Microsoft products we know of?

  • The way they came up with this idea was from marshmellows! They just came up with a more technical term and use for them. I bet I could build anything that you can with my marshmellows and a cup of water!
  • by ParadoXIII ( 94293 ) on Sunday January 23, 2000 @11:58AM (#1345088) Homepage
    They have them at the Store of Knowledge and similar places.
    Basic set is $20... Advanced is 40 and Expert is 60. Here [] is the product info for the three sets.
  • by chadmulligan ( 87873 ) on Sunday January 23, 2000 @12:32PM (#1345089)
    I never stopped to analyze the mechanism, however.

    The mechanism is actually quite simple, the trick is in the linkage that converts a dimensional variation along one axis into an inverse variation at right angles, which is then taken up and reconverted by the adjoining edges. So all polygons are forced to contract or expand proportionally.

    While one is limited to building unit-edge polyhedra - closed ones work better than open ones - there are much more of those than is usually supposed. Have a look at Poly [] (Mac and Windows versions available), a shareware program which displays an astonishing variety of polyhedra. [Insert usual disclaimers here]

  • by Corrinne Yu ( 121661 ) on Sunday January 23, 2000 @01:46PM (#1345090)
    I am a coder, not a toy-maker. So if the following suggestsions are dorky to professional toy-makers I apologize.

    The following are some toys I would enjoy.

    1. Toys that allow me to squish a geometric form into its dual, and back to its dual.

    2. Toys that allow me to build viral crystal building blocks, and visualize how viral crystals stack.

    3. Toys composed simply of 1 gadget, an octet truss, or an isotropic vector matrix.

    4. Polyhedron truncation. Things that allow me to make new polyhedron by truncating corners. And then allows me to make new polyhedron by un-truncating corners.

    5. Packing toys. i.e., spheres of arbitrary sizes, pyramids of aribitrary sizes, and then a way to contruct convex hull containers of arbitrary interesting shapes. Then I can build the convex hull, throw spheres or pyramids into them, shake them around (thus, applying physical real-life stochastic simulated annealing to find local min bounds), and see what I get.

    If any of the above are dorkily impractical toy suggestions, my apologies.

    P.S. I know we can write code to simulate all the above. But there is something fun to "touch things with your hands." :)

  • by hamjudo ( 64140 ) on Sunday January 23, 2000 @12:08PM (#1345091) Homepage Journal
    They are really neat for the first few hours. Then you start to see the limitations.

    Regular solids work well. More complex things don't expand and contract so well.

    If you get the little set, you think, gosh I can make some cool things with the big set. You need the big set to see that you can only build things so large before they just don't work at all.

    There are also little playability issues with the extra swivel joints. They are hard to get together. Sometimes when taking things apart, they come apart in the wrong places.

    If you really like construction toys like Lego Technics, assume you'll get 4 to 8 hours of fun out these things. Then it will sit on the shelf.

    What is 4 hours of construction fun worth to you?

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll