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Archive for the ‘toys’ Category

The Future of Innovation: The World is Your Controller

Posted by Plish on March 30, 2018


We interact with the world even when we don’t realize it. 

The act of breathing changes the chemical composition of the air in our immediate vicinity.  Standing in the sun casts a shadow – the area in the darkness gets momentarily deprived of light.  Jump up and down and the floor vibrates.  Walk in a crowd and other people magically move out of the way (hopefully 😉 ).  We tell people we love them (or we don’t) and they respond on an emotional level causing chemical and electrical processes to be initiated in their bodies and in ours.

Go to any Home Depot or Lowes, and there are countless switches, knobs, buttons, sliders and more, that are used to foster interaction with the world around us.

Unfortunately, we’ve gotten so used to these mechanisms of interaction that we think these are the only ways to interact.  We call them switches, knobs, buttons, etc., but we no longer call them what they really are:


Interact with something and it controls something.

To the extent we can measure how the world reacts to our interactions, we can use those measurements to control other things.

Everything has the potential to be a controller.

Some Gamers have taken this truism to an extreme by using objects as diverse as fishing reels to bananas to LED strips to control the games they’re playing.

This video shows the bananas in use.


What can we use as controllers in the game we all play: Life?

It’s important that we suspend all judgement of what makes a good controller, at least in the beginning.  It’s important that we play, that we experiment. After all, controllers are used in games.

In our increasingly connected world, the Internet of Things enables controlling systems in unimaginable ways.

The controllers of the future don’t need to have an obvious relationship to the things we want to control (bananas?!).  We only have to design the means for interpreting  our interactions with controllers and sending that information to whatever it is we want to control.

That’s my challenge to you.

Start seeing the everything in the world as a potential controller. Get wild with your ideas.  Think of it as a game, have fun!

Radical innovation may only be a banana away!


***If you’d like to learn more and want to structure a class on alternate controllers, take a look at this paper from the folks at the Rochester Institute of Technology who had a class in building alternative game controllers.


Posted in creativity, Design, Disruptive Innovation, games, imagination, innovation, Maker, Maker Movement, problem solving, product design, Service Design, The Future, toys, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Maker Faire Coming to Milwaukee, Wisconsin!

Posted by Plish on July 24, 2014


At last!

Every year I’ve bemoaned the fact that there wasn’t a  large, local Maker Faire in Northern Illinois/Southern Wisconsin.

This year will be different.

Thanks to the vibrantly creative Milwaukee Community and the sponsorship of the Brady Corporation, Milwaukee will be home to a two-day Maker Faire. The event will be held at the Wisconsin State Fair Park on Sept. 27th and 28th, 2014.  Admission is FREE!!  If you’d like to do some making at the Faire, they are currently excepting applications.

For more info there is the official press release here, and be sure to check out the website.

If you plan on going, please let me know. I hope to see you there!


Posted in 3D Printing, Arts, Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Digital Manufacturing, Disruptive Innovation, innovation, invention, Maker Movement, Play, toys, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Goooooooooooal!!! An Innovation that Impacts Life Beyond the Soccer Field

Posted by Plish on June 7, 2012

Soccer is a sport that’s loved worldwide (where it’s often known as futbol/football/kickball). Just like this image I took when I was in Ukraine a few years back (which is co-hosting the Euro Cup this year), scenes like this one are playing out all over the world, even in countries that have crippling economic hardships. 

Being the son of Ukrainian born parents and living next door to folks born in Germany, I was playing soccer  early in life (long before “Soccer Mom” was even a phrase) and later played in Chicago’s Semi-Pro leagues.   I could never figure out why soccer wasn’t more common among my peers here in the US.   It’s a sport that is easy to outfit. All you need is a ball and somewhere to kick it.  And, like the above picture shows, the space doesn’t even need to be grass-covered.

So when I saw this innovation, I was blown away.

It’s all about the ball.

These two entrepreneurs hatched this brilliant idea as part of an ‘engineering for non-engineers’ class.  Check out the video.


Leveraging things you wouldn’t normally connect (that’s the key to great innovations!) – soccer and the need for energy in parts of the world that don’t have easy access to it – this amazing and fun innovation was born.

In this age of “There’s an app for that”, it truly is refreshing to see a fun innovation that fits so seamlessly into kids daily lives and provides a benefit going well beyond those that exercise provides.   And, if you donate one of these balls, you don’t just contribute to the well-being of kids, you contribute to the well-being of the communities they belong to.

Well done!!!

Posted in children, Customer Focus, Design, games, innovation, Play, Social Innovation, Sports Creativity, Start-Ups, Sustainable Technology, toys, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Out of the Minds of Babes – Lessons From Innovating Children

Posted by Plish on March 27, 2009

Spencer Rocco Whale And His Invention

Spencer Rocco Whale And His Invention

Children are



they invent things,

toys, games, friends, and…

 …medical devices…

This story of Spencer Rocco Whale’s trip to a hospital is both heartwarming and a lesson for all of us.

Spencer wasn’t a patient, he was a visitor.

In his own words: “Kids hospitalized with serious health conditions still like to play.”

His idea?

Attaching the IV pole to a kiddie car so children can tool around with IV’s attached but not their parents.

Some great lessons here:

  1. Put yourself in the shoes of the user – really-vicariously look at the situation. (His quote says it all!)
  2. Pay attention to the needs of everyone involved! (Not just the children but the parents as well)
  3. If there is an intermediary in a system, try to eliminate it (In this case the parent running alongside with an IV pole)
  4. Improving quality of life can often be achieved through eliminating constraints
  5. Keep your eyes open for ways to help others

If you’re going to keep your eyes open, make sure you’re looking with the eyes of a child…

Posted in children, Design, Health Concerns, idea generation, innovation, invention, Play, The Human Person, toys | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Sashimi Tabernacle Choir – A Lesson In Innovation

Posted by Plish on January 14, 2009

Sometimes, you scratch your head and just look at something and say…”Hmmm….”

Richard Carter of Texas hunkered down and created this mechanized symphony.  Not sure why.

However, hidden in his explanation is a pearl, no, a diamond of wisdom on innovating:

“What is really required is enough lack of common sense to start a project like this, and think you can pull it off.  If we had any conception about how much work we would eventually put into it, we never would have started it. But we naively dived into it; we had enough vision or something to keep on going.”

How often does the “not knowing what you don’t know” card foster innovation?

Posted in Authenticity, Case Studies, innovation, Nature of Creativity, toys | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

A Great, Creative Modeling Tool – Bendaroos

Posted by Plish on December 16, 2008

I received an email I knew was SPAM. It was entitled “Re: Amazing Flexible Building Sticks.”

I opened it and the kid inside me jumped up and down.  I clicked and went to the Bendaroo website

I was greeted by an obnoxious promo video, but I looked past that and was smitten by the coolness of this product.

Why am I high on this?

It’s a great tool for brainstorming and idea generation.  Anytime you can play with things with your fingers you can and will increase your creative output.  The fact that this stuff is reusable is a bonus.

Unleashing your playful side is a must if you want to optimize your creativity.  A product like this (which I get no money for promoting I might add!) get’s two thumbs up and deserves to be in any creative person’s toolkit.

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, Creativity Leadership, idea generation, toys, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Review of Chicago Toy and Game Fair

Posted by Plish on November 23, 2008

Do Not Know When This Pic Was Taken But It Was Not Today In Chicago

Do Not Know When This Pic Was Taken But It Was Not Today In Chicago

Today went to the Chicago Toy and Game Fair-ChiTaG for short.  It took a bout 2 hours to leisurely stroll through the hall, chatting and checking out the various games.  The main take-aways were:

  • Eco/Green games are in.  This was clearly THE main common thread through the majority of the newer games.
  • You don’t have to come up with a whole new type of game to have something that’s pretty cool.  Just by tweaking the rules and adding or subtracting from well known games like Trivial Pursuit can result in totally new and cool games. 
  • Almost no high tech type games were there- only a couple even looked high tech.
  • Very few music related games or toys
  • The overwhelming majority of games were for indoor use.

Personally there were two games that caught my eye and even dented my pocketbook.  The first, called “Not Tonight Josephine” is a Trivial Pursuit type of game that is great for history buffs.  Though originally designed for the UK it comes with a US adaption kit for those of us on this side of the pond that don’t know much about Cockney English.   It even got good reviews.  By the way, this is the one that dented our pocketbook as my wife and I couldn’t pass it up. 

The second game that I really dug was called SiegeStones.  Players take turns placing towers or stones on a wooden game board (that would look totally cool if it was marble!) and try and claim the towers by gaining adjacent circles with their color stones.  A typical game lasts only 15 minutes or so.  I was taken by the simplicity and modern primitivity of it.  Didn’t drop any coin for this one, but maybe I’ll make a marble board for it first.

All in all, I recommend you checking it out if you’re in Chicago.  It’s still going Sunday the 23rd and you can get a $2 off coupon here.

Games are a great way to get thinking in non-traditional ways, so go with an open mind and see how innovation doesn’t have to be earth shattering to be new!

Posted in Design, games, idea generation, problem solving, Reviews, toys, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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