Weekend Linkdown: A robot dog, landfill landscapes & a DRM chair that melts

Rob Walker

By Rob Walker

It’s Friday, and of course you’ve done all your work for the week, because that’s how you roll. Still, you need to look busy until quitting time. Let me help.

Please enjoy: A 47-second video in which a robot called BigDog chunks a cinder block across the room. BigDog is a surprisingly appealing military robot with four legs, being developed by a company called Boston Dynamics. When it picks up the object, it starts to prance a bit, as if trying to keep its balance. But even after hurling the cinder block, it’s still kind of skittering or prancing—like it’s worked up or excited. Unnerving fun!

Object of the week: Minecraft Pickaxe Touchscreen Stylus. This requires no particular explanation, but I will note in passing that maybe it’s what Sergey Brin needs?

Study up: I’m a fan of the PBS Web video series "Off Book," which offers brisk, entertaining overviews of various topics in the realms of technology and creativity. Each episode usually clocks in around seven minutes, built around tightly edited interviews with various experts. So if you’ve been hearing a lot about 3D printers and don’t really get it, for instance, check out the latest "Off Book" episode about 3D printers. (Via BoingBoing.)

Visuals: Photographer Yao Lu’s “New Landscapes” are quite lovely, and sneakily provocative. At first they resemble “old Chinese paintings of misty mountains, green hills, and choppy brown rivers,” says PetaPixel. In fact, they show huge hills of garbage, covered with some sort of industrial green netting. Beautiful and depressing.

Heh: Digital Rights Management may not be your idea of an amusing topic, but this video of the DRM Chair is a clever comment on the so-called “six strikes” Copyright Alert System: It’s designed to collapse into an unusable pile of junk after a limited number of sits. (Via The New Aesthetic.)

The future of sitting: Speaking of chairs, a set of drawings of new sitting/leaning/lounging/slumping postures, supposedly the sedentary fallout of smartphone and tablet use, made the rounds a week or two ago. I did not realize at the time that they are connected to research by Steelcase on how to better accommodate the way we swipe-and-pinch now. An irritating know-it-all design guy condescendingly explains how this research has led to a new chair called Gesture, apparently available later this year. (Via Core77.)

The end: I love reading the obits, because there’s always a fun—and completely untimely—fact I’d have no other reason to encounter. Case in point: The guy who designed the Edsel passed away this week, and his New York Times obit casually mentions that despite being one of the most notorious engineered commercial object flops in history, the car has been “revered as a collectible for decades.” Then there’s a quote from a guy who “brokers Edsels and sells Edsel parts online at Edsel World.” A community of fans of something that’s practically a metaphor for product failure: awesome.

The Times failed to link to Edsel World, and that’s its readers' loss. The photo gallery is enjoyable, but wow, look at these gorgeous Edsel manuals. I’d display one, proudly.