The TIA Toy Fair and Some Research on Time

I came across quite a number of interesting toys at the toy fair, but my absolute favorites included the exhibit by Korean robotics company, Robotis and their line of Ollo robot systems. There was a malleable pen containing two robotic animals that we were able to manipulate into action using remote controls. I was informed that the robots were designed such that they could be simply constructed by children, and that older children, beginning at around a 9th grade level, would be deemed capable of programming the robot to perform tasks of their own whim. Here are a few of the toys I saw, programmed to perform various different actions… I took a great fancy to the turtle:

The other favorite from the show was Pint Sized Productions' Food Chain Friends plush toy sets. They are just kind of delightful and appealing, and I think kids should know about the food chain and all that, of course, but mostly I just thought they were really cute and fun and well designed.

Going onto the other portion of this posting, I did a bit of research on the different symbols that have been used as gestures indicating the passage of time. One of the most poignant examples that came to mind is the analysis of tree-rings to determine the lifetime of a tree. It is fascinating that much can be understood by looking at the width of these things, telling a simplified story of environmental patterns throughout the tree's life. It is so simple and unilateral that the variation is all the more meaningful from ring to ring.


Another, totally different gesture representing the passage of time is the circular rose-window in the medieval Lincoln Cathedral, which faces north. From a vantage point inside the church, one is able to see the rotation of the constellations of the north stars through the circular holes in the stone, as well as recognize the passage of seasons.


Doing some research in the library, I was leafing through a book called Clocks & Watches, by Johann Willsberger. In this volume I came across a really frivolous but interesting specimen of timepiece from the latter 16th century (now preserved in the Würtemburgisches Landesmuseum in Stuttgart in the Fremersdorf Collection), composed of a round platform upon which are a gilt copper ostrich being led by leash attached to the neck of a small bear cub holding a drum. When the quarter hour strikes, the bear opens its mouth & moves its head. On the hour, the bird moves its beak, rolls its eyes, and flaps it wings. When the alarm is triggered, the bear beats the drum. I found this to be a fascinating and droll way of spending one's time creating a gesture to suggest the passage of time.

Another quite unusual timepiece was a type of gravity-driven clock desribed in Clocks and Watches 1400-1900 (© 1967 Eric Bruton), the rolling clock, or the inclined plane clock, a drum-shaped device placed on a wedge-like stnd. The drum slowly rolls down the stand over the course of what was usually set as a week. I discovered this photo of such a clock online: