Building your own LEGO Land

For more than sixty years, LEGOs have allowed children all over the world to create worlds of their own. Although most sets come with a predetermined set of specs to follow, much of the fun lies in veering away from those designs. You might start out making a fire station and wind up constructing a small fortress. Or you might begin with a mansion and then add on propellers. The appeal of LEGOs has always been that the possibilities are endless. What begins as a simple pile of bricks can easily turn into a complex work of art. Wouldn't it be great if you could create life-size things with LEGOs? It used to be a dream, but now it's one step closer to becoming reality. The following stories are about how professionals use LEGOs and 3D printing to create real-world designs.

Building a City

Many factors have to be considered in urban planning: location, population, environmental concerns, potential growth. In addition to those factors, planners must consider the design area. Architects want their buildings to be aesthetically pleasing in addition to being functional. The difficulty lies in getting a clear idea of the visuals from a static set of blueprints. That's where LEGO comes in.

lego city
Image via City Lab

At the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a new public display allows Boston residents to shape a city as they see fit. MIT's display features a 3D projection of the city laid out on an interactive board. Citizens then use LEGO pieces to shape an area of the city, to which the projection automatically adjusts itself. This allows Boston citizens to see very quickly how construction proposals would positively or negatively affect the city.

According to Chris Zegras, professor of Transportation and Urban Planning at MIT, the purpose of the project is to bridge the gap between city planners and the average citizen. "Our ultimate objective is this idea of co-creation," explains Zegras. "Having producers and consumers work intimately together in the production of a good creates a better good. We would like that to happen in how we produce 21st-century transit systems."

Happy Camper

When kids create LEGO automobiles, they're usually variations of the cars their parents drive or re-creations of vehicles from films and television shows they've watched. Whatever the design, both parents and kids wish they could build their own vehicle and take it for a test drive. At the recent Motorhome and Caravan Show in the United Kingdom, one such vehicle really was taken out on the road.

lego camper
Image via Guinness World Records

One of the highlights of the show was the display of life-sized caravan camper built from 215,158 LEGO pieces, setting a Guinness World Record for the largest caravan built with interlocking bricks. The camper was built over 12 weeks, and required more than a thousand man hours. As impressive as it is in design, what really sets the camper apart is that it's fully functional. It features a sink with running water, a working refrigerator, and even a bed, among other amenities. The camper will next be shown alongside its real-life counterpart at BRICK, a British LEGO fan event, in late October, before being displayed in London in early December.

Did you play with LEGOs as a kid? How about as an adult? Share your stories in the comments below!

3D-Printed LEGO Limbs Help Child Amputees Adjust

Longtime readers of this blog know that we're quite fond of LEGOs and fascinated by the use of 3D printing in the field of medicine. So when news broke of these two elements being brought together, it was only a matter of time before we told you folks about it.

A Man with a Plan

Colombian-born designer Carlos Arturo Torres interned for six months at LEGO's Future Lab. Impressed by the company's dedication to social outreach, Torres convinced them to sponsor a trip back to his hometown of Bogotá, wherein he would observe amputees at Cirec, a rehabilitation center. After spending time in the center’s youth ward, Torres came up with an idea to make a medical attachment out of their favorite toys.

Double Trouble for Young Amputees

As Torres discovered, amputee children not only have to function with a missing limb, but also face a greater social stigma amongst their peers. "My friends in psychology used to tell me that when a kid has a disability, he is not really aware of it until he faces society," says Torres. "That's when they have a super rough encounter."

Introducing Personalized Prosthetics

Torres' design, named "Iko", is for amputees aged to 3-12, covering many of the most important developmental years in a child's life. The attachment allows the child to accessorize and customize the prosthetic as they see fit, helping to build the patient's self-esteem as well as providing functional movement.

After successfully testing the prototypes at Cirec, Torres hopes to have 15 more units ready by this December, with a full production line ready by mid-2017.

Lots to Love about LEGOs!

It should come as no surprise that we’re LEGO fans. Who isn’t? Kids turn them into houses, adults turn them into sculptures, and they even inspired a hit film. LEGOs have been popular for more than 50 years with no signs of slowing down. And with the recent news that they will soon be fully sustainable, the time seemed right to once again take a look at some major LEGO development.

Another Brick in the WALL*E

It’s no surprise that LEGO has created special sets to tie in popular film and television properties. From Star Wars to Batman, every franchise that’s any franchise gets a LEGO set eventually. But there have been surprisingly few sets for Disney or Pixar Animation properties. Thankfully, that’s about to change.

LEGO-WALLE.jpg
(via Gizmodo)

This past February, LEGO announced they’d begun production on the titular character of the hit Disney/Pixar film WALL*E. The model is being designed by Angus MacLane, a Pixar animator who worked on the film. Although the model is expected to be pricey ($65) when it hits store shelves in December, it’s also expected to be one of LEGO’s bestsellers for 2015.

LEGO V8

One of the defining characteristics of LEGO is the amount of attention paid to the tiniest details. It isn’t always easy, especially since the typical brick is a solid rectangular block. But the company’s designers have always made it a point to adhere as close to the original designs as possible, even in ways you wouldn’t expect.

LEGO-Ferrari-F40.jpg
(via Gizmodo)

Ferrari is one of the most popular car companies in the world, so it’s no surprise that they would eventually have a LEGO incarnation. What wasn’t expected was how the set – based on the popular F40 model from 1987 – would have so much detail that it would also include a LEGO-style V8 engine as well. The set is expected to hit shelves in August with a $90 price tag. How many other chances will you have to say you own a Ferrari?

A Work of Art

As we’ve already mentioned, LEGOs appeal to people of all ages. This is most likely due to the fact that no matter what your age, you can make a design all your own. Well, now machines are trying to get in on the fun.

Jason Alleman’s specialty at JK Brickworks is to find new uses for 3-D printer technology. So it was only a matter of time before his unique line of work was combined with one of his favorite hobbies. Alleman created the Bricasso, a modified 3-D printer that creates mosaics out of LEGO pieces. Although the images created have to be heavily pixelated to conform to the bricks used, the Bricasso has created some incredibly detailed images for a machine that works with tiny blocks.

R/C Redux

30. April 2015 12:04 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: ,   //   Comments (0)

When you’re a kid, it’s almost impossible to think that anyone could have more fun than you’re having at any given moment. But eventually you get older and notice the world changing around you. All of the “simple” knick-knacks you grew up with are replaced complicated pieces of machinery that you can’t even begin to comprehend. But even as you resign yourself to letting the new kids have their fun, you’d give anything for one of your childhood favorites to make a comeback.

Well, one such classic toy is evolving with the times: the radio-controlled (R/C) racing car. Created in the 1960s, the R/C car was an electronically-assisted step up from the self-propelled toy cars kids used. It became a staple of neighborhood playtime in the ‘80s and early-‘90s, despite a few glitches (close proximity with other R/C could allow a user to commandeer control someone else's car). As the new millennium dawned, rising prices drove the R/C to become a niche item.

That hasn’t stopped the smart device generation from resurrecting the R/C in a bold new way. They’re even looking to some of their favorite movies and tv shows for inspiration.

Bat-tastic!

There have been films about Batman nearly as long as there have been films. Though the producers may change and the details may evolve, one lasting detail of the Caped Crusader’s cinematic exploits is his use of iconic custom-made vehicle, the Batmobile. 

The first is a 29-inch model based on the design used in the 1989 blockbuster Batman. Though not fully R/C, it does allow the user to remote-control the car’s lights and machine gun turrets that activate on command. If you prefer a more modern design with a bit more control, you can try the 1:12 scale model version of “The Tumbler” from Batman Begins. It’s fully R/C, allows you to control both the lights and doors, and even features a 480p on-board camera that allows you to view driving from your mobile device.

At starting prices of $1,000, neither of these models is very cheap. But if you’re willing to spend the dough, you can indulge the Dark Knight in your life.

Batman-RC-Tumbler.jpg
(via Gizmodo)

Tokyo Drift Away

The success of the Fast and the Furious movies caught nearly everyone by surprise. What started with a low-budget racing film has evolved into a seven-film franchise for which the revenues have only increased with each subsequent entry. The most recent sequel recently became the fastest film in history to gross $1 billion in revenue during its initial release.

Although you might not have the money (or the insurance coverage) to try out the films’ stunts in actual cars, you can still get a kick out of this tribute video the Falkan Tires company made with R/C cars. The nearly three-minute video uses R/C cars over dry ice to simulate “drifting”, a driving technique popular in Japan and introduced to western audiences via the film The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Because who said every film you act out with R/C cars had to be a superhero flick?

Dark Side Drones

By now, it’s safe to say that you’re aware of a new Star Wars film coming out this December. Well, one enthusiastic fan decided to combine his love of the classic trilogy with his new hobby. Oliver C has made quadcopter drones designed to resemble ships used by The Galactic Empire. His latest creation is the Star Destroyer below, following his TIE Fighter design and his Millennium Falcon model.

No one knows if he’s going to design another soon, but with the new film half-a-year away, he’s got plenty of time to decide.

Star-Wars-Star-Destroyer-drone.jpg
(via Gizmodo)

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