This week:
The World’s Smallest Co-Axial Helicopter, Black Leather Keyboard, iPhone Location Amp for the Yamanote Train Line, Joule Thief Insect, Webcam Theremin, Kodomo no Kagaku Magazine: Science For Kids, Dream Factory Blow: Retro Miniaturized Vans, RC Airplane Launcher Catapult, Wooden Toys from Heiwa Mokko, Recycling Art: Cabbage Chair by Nendo, Recycling Art: Plastic Bottle Armor, and Design Festa 2008!!!

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The World’s Smallest Co-Axial Helicopter
We can finally forget about those floating skateboards from Back to the Future 2, because the future is here: Personal helicopters. The kid in me says “Totally awesome!” while the adult in me can’t help but think “Totally dangerous!” Gen Corp has been developing their G-4 Co-Axial Helicopter since 1999, and they seem to be making personal flight a reality as well as a good time. Why haven’t these invaded America? It’ll run for an hour if you weigh 155 lbs, so maybe we are too fat or something. From the FAQ:

Q : How long can it fly?
A : It depends on the pilot’s weight
On average a 70kg (155 lb.) pilot can fly approximately 1 hour on a 5-gallon tank of fuel.

Q : What type of fuel does it use?
A : 30:1 mixture of automobile gasoline and two stroke oil

Rotor dia=12ft / height=8ft / net weight=140lbs / gross wt=380lbs

The entire rotor-head is supported on a gimbal, which is slanted towards the direction of travel by the control bar (in other words a weight shift controls the direction of travel).

Want to see more video? Here’s a slightly cooler, but horrible quality video of the G-4. The power lines in this video make me quite nervous. That must mean I’m getting old and boring…

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Black Leather Keyboard
If you like the way the leather interior feels in a car, then you might really like the way it would feel on your keyboard. Wazakura Koubou brings the world a keyboard made out of black saddle leather, but what saves this product from seeming like another unneeded SkyMall-type luxury is that there are no letters on any the keys. Now it’s mysterious, dangerous, and requires touch typing. They spare no expense in the production of this keyboard, as both the front and the back of this keyboard are covered in black saddle leather. Via Gizmodo Japan.

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iPhone Location Amp for the Yamanote Train Line
Made in Japan fave Masayuki Akamatsu is at it again, this time in a collaborative project with Koozyt and their GPS-less Wi-Fi triangulation service, Place Engine to track a user’s location on Tokyo’s Yamanote train line using an iPhone or iPod Touch. What’s so important about the Yamanote Line? The Yamanote Line is arguably Tokyo’s busiest train line and has 29 stations in its loop, taking about an hour to complete a loop. Since people tend to fall asleep on the train, this program includes an alarm so that you don’t miss your stop when you’re asleep. A demo of this project was recently presented at O’Reilly’s Where 2.0 conference, and this and other projects like it are good indications of the future potential for geospatial web applications.

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Joule Thief Insect
As Mark Frauenfelder wrote in his column entitled “Make Like Picasso” in vol. 14 of MAKE, projects can be so much better when the maker takes the additional effort to make the project look nice. What better way to bring to endow a project with physical appeal than to make it look like an insect? Abe-san over at Galliano’s TVC Review did just that with this creative twist on the Joule Thief. That ferrite core just fits right in with its whimsical sag. Although it is both a thief and in insect, I think I’d let this one live if I found it on my floor.



Webcam Theremin

Is it too soon for another variation on the Theremin? C’mon, every maker loves a good Theremin hack, right? Here’s a webcam-based version of the Theremin that senses the motion of your two hands and translates one to pitch and the other to volume. This is a Flash-based version of a visual Theremin, but it’s essentially based on the same tracking principal as the “Air Scratch” project in MAKE vol. 4. The example video shown above features the Theremin’s volume being controlled what I think might be Paddington Bear. This is a very highly-ranked video on the Webcam Theremin website. Does cuteness rule Japan? Maybe.


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Kodomo no Kagaku Magazine: Science For Kids
Gakken’s Otona no Kagaku mook has been a favorite here in Made in Japan, but did you know that before there was Otona no Kagaku (“Science for Adults”) there was Kodomo no Kagaku, or “Science for Children”? The name makes more sense now, huh… PingMag recently did a nice write-up about the history of this wonderful publication, and it’s full of pictures of old science projects that you will wish you could have done as a kid.

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Dream Factory Blow: Retro Miniaturized Vans
Japan is home to scaled-down smaller cars known as keijidousha or “kei cars,” and particularly interesting are the shrunken vans known as microvans. Thanks to the fine people at Dream Factory Blow, these yellow-license-plated beauties can be made to look like miniature versions of vintage full-size vans by tricking them out with face kits, new headlights, alternate siding, new bumpers, and fresh paint jobs. The result is quite impressive. Mister Jalopy of Dinosaurs and Robots says:

These little custom vans are so cute you just want to grab ’em and snuggle up with them. The detail is impressive, but even more amazing is the perfect scale. They really do look like American vans passed under the shrinking ray.

Since they’re in the business of molding plastic bumper replacements, Dream Factory Blow also dabbles in other molded plastic goods, for example, these wonderfully retro pet carriers:
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And these plastic “Jerry Bean” (not sure if that spelling is a mistake or a Greatful Dead nod) chairs (matching ukulele not included):
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Now I just wonder if they could do a kei-car version of that Noam Chomsky van

RC Airplane Launcher Catapult
Souki Systems Inc. made this airplane launcher for mountainous areas or other places where there isn’t enough room for a normal runway takeoff. It’s simpler than you might think: It just uses a large rubber band to send the plane flying. The plane shown here is pimped out with a video camera inside, and they have posted that footage, complete with the catapult takeoff and what appears to be a bit of a tumultuous landing.

Wooden Toys from Heiwa Mokko
Nagoya-based Heiwa Mokko makes beautiful, functional mechanical wooden toys.
Recycling Art: Cabbage Chair by Nendo

Cabbage Chair is a new product by Japanese designers Nendo made of waste paper from the pleated fabric industry. The paper is wrapped into a cylinder and cut vertically halfway down one side so that the layers can be peeled back one at a time. Miyake asked us to make furniture out of the pleated paper that is produced in mass amounts during the process of making pleated fabric and usually abandoned as an unwanted by-product.

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Recycling Art: Plastic Bottle Armor
Kosuke Tsumura makes recycled armor art out of discarded Coke bottles. These bottles were sliced up into thin strands to make a sort of clear plastic thread that was woven together. The artist also used plastic bottles in his “Bustle Style” piece. Freaky cool.

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Design Festa!!!
Design Festa, the “Lollapalooza of the Japanese creative craft world” (I just made that up) was held over the weekend in Tokyo, and as one might expect of such an event, creativity was everywhere. There’s sure to be more coverage of this rolling in throughout the week, but for now, I give you these:

Fork Clock by Hirofumi Masuda:
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ANTI from Korea was in attendance, showing off her vivid painting style and cool clothes:
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Cosajisalut, in effect, displaying her dementedly amazing felt creations:
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Airbrush Art By B’Z Joint: A satisfied customer strikes a pose. Viva la Mesh Hat!
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And plenty of other cool, edgy crafts:
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Is that a child in a Super Mario Bros. Spiny costume? Cute overload? How could you say no to this child?
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Apparently this other Spiny didn’t care about cuteness. Out of fear, our hero recoils into his shell. Is that blur from the motion of his leg, mid-kick? Yikes.
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Some attendees show off their new Phillips-head wounds, extra eyes:
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Mike