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kottke.org posts about Legos

Lego Version of Hokusai’s Iconic The Great Wave off Kanagawa

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 14, 2020

Lego Version of Hokusai's Iconic The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Lego Version of Hokusai's Iconic The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Jumpei Mitsui, the youngest-ever Lego Certified Professional, has created a Lego version of Hokusai’s iconic woodblock print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa. The Great Wave is perhaps the most recognizable (and most covered) Japanese artwork in the world. Mitsui’s Lego rendering is composed of 50,000 pieces and took 400 hours to build. From Spoon & Tamago:

In ensuring that his 3D lego replica not only payed homage to the original but also captured the dynamics of crashing waves, Mitsui says he read several academic papers on giant wave formations, as well as spent hours on YouTube watching video of waves.

You can check out the Lego Great Wave in person at the Hankyu Brick Museum in Osaka.

The User Experience Design of Lego Interface Panels

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 06, 2020

Lego Console Interfaces

I thought George Cave’s The UX of LEGO Interface Panels was going to be a fun distraction, but it’s actually a great layperson’s explanation, using familiar Lego pieces, of how interfaces work in the real world and the design considerations that go into building them.

Shape coding is one approach to differentiation, but there are many others. Colour coding is perhaps the only one to break into our everyday vocabulary, but we can add four more: size, texture, position and operation coding. Together these six are our allies in the design of error-proof interfaces.

Size, shape and colour-coding are the fundamentals: quick-wins that can fix a lot of interface problems. Texture is also a great differentiator for blind operation, particularly on small dials requiring precise control.

(via sidebar)

Lego Nintendo Entertainment System

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2020

Lego set of the Nintendo Entertainment System

As a child of the 80s, this Lego set of the Nintendo Entertainment System activates a very ancient and primal region of my brain. As you can see in this short video, the set includes a controller, a cartridge that you can put into the machine, and a vintage TV with a hand-crank that you can use to “play” Super Mario Bros.

Build Your Own Magically Floating Lego Tensegrity Sculpture

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 23, 2020

Ok, take a look at this short video of a Lego structure. Whaaaaat kind of sorcery is this?!

The top part of the structure appears to be floating, held aloft by plastic chains seemingly incapable of supporting the load. This is an example of a tensegrity sculpture, in which tension (and not compression) is used to carry weight.

If you want to build your own, the instructions and parts list are available and you can watch this tutorial as well:

(via colossal)

A Lego Justin Trudeau Talks to Children About the Covid-19 Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2020

During a press conference last month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent a couple of minutes talking directly to the nation’s children, acknowledging their hardships and role in mitigating the effects of the pandemic. Tyler Walsh and his two sons spent a week making this Lego stop motion animation of Trudeau’s address, something that kids might be more likely to watch.

In an interview with the CBC, Walsh described their process:

“[It took] a fair amount of time and hundreds and hundreds of photos,” he said.

Each working to their strengths, Walsh said the kids were primarily in charge of piecing together the Lego elements — such as a podium, as well as hair and a bearded head for Trudeau — to bring the set to life.

“I would have questions for them like, ‘I need a sad kid. Do we have any sad kid Lego heads?’”

Trudeau himself responded to the Lego version of his address:

This is really great, Tyler. I think my kids — and a whole lot of others — will get a kick out of this, all while hearing how they can help out too. Thanks for helping spread that message.

(via @auntmaureen)

Lego Frida Kahlo

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 12, 2019

Lego Frida

Behold a Lego portrait of Frida Kahlo made by visual artist Karen Cantú Q. She was inspired by Marco Sodano’s Lego portraits made for the company — you’ve likely seen his Mona Lisa but I’m partial to the van Gogh.

Lego Van Gogh

Lego In Real Life

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 18, 2019

BrickBrosProductions makes stop motion animated films featuring Lego bricks. Their most popular video is a compilation of the three short films in their “Lego In Real Life” series, where objects built from Lego interact with the real world — Lego butter, Lego apples, Lego pencils, and Lego wood.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes of the woodworking movie as well as a general tutorial about how to make Lego stop motion videos.

Music Video Shot from the Front of a Toy Lego Train

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 20, 2019

The music video for Anna Meredith’s latest song, Paramour, is a single-take journey of a toy Lego train through a group of musicians playing cellos, drums, and tubas, from the perspective of a camera mounted on the front of the train. This has some definite Star Guitar + Wallace & Gromit vibes. (via colossal)

Life-Sized Lego Electronics

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 15, 2019

Brix System is a collection of scaled-up Lego versions of computers, phones, and music machines made out of wood. This is super nerdy and I am here for it.

See also A Full-Scale Lego Supercar that Actually Drives.

Lego Prosthetic Arms

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 12, 2019

19-year-old bioengineering major David Aguilar, aka Hand Solo, has built himself a series of prosthetic arms out of Lego. In this short video, he shows off some of the arms, including his latest 4th generation model:

He built his first Lego prosthetic limb when he was 18. According to this Reuters article, Aguilar names his arms using the same system as Iron Man uses for his armor suits (MK-1, MK-II, etc.) and wants to build low-cost prosthetics after he graduates from college.

A Full-Scale Lego Supercar that Actually Drives

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 30, 2018

Over the past few months, a team at Lego has been building a full-scale model of a Bugatti Chiron supercar using only Lego Technics pieces — aside from the wheels, tires, and a few other key components. They got the look of the car down, but the truly impressive thing is that the car actually drives, powered by an electric engine made up of over 2300 Power Function motors. The Lego press release has the details.

Bugatti Lego

The model is the first large scale movable construction developed using over 1,000,000 LEGO Technic elements and powered exclusively using motors from the LEGO Power Function platform. Packed with 2,304 motors and 4,032 LEGO Technic gear wheels, the engine of this 1.5 tonnes car is generating 5.3 horse power and an estimated torque of 92 Nm.

The doors open and close, the spoiler moves up and down, the headlights work, and the all-Lego speedometer works — what a goofy and amazing accomplishment. cc: my Lego- and supercar-loving son

Brutalist architecture built with Lego

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 18, 2018

Brutal Lego

Brutal Lego

Brutal Lego

The proprietor of the @brutsinlego account and his/her children build simple Brutalist structures out of Lego and post the results to Instagram.

BTW, the term Brutalist does not refer to the frequently brutal (adj. “direct and lacking any attempt to disguise unpleasantness”) appearance of buildings built in this style, but after the French term béton brut (raw concrete) that describes the unfinished concrete surfaces of these buildings.

Further BTW: Google Translate variously translates “brut” to “gross”, “raw”, “crude”, “undefined”, “dry”, and “rude”. Brut and brutal also likely have the same Latin root, so to some extent, the assumption that Brutalism refers to the blunt appearance of these buildings has some merit.

Cool custom Lego sets

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2018

Lego Computers

Lego Computers

Lego Computers

Chris McVeigh sells custom Lego sets of items like old computers, desks, video game consoles, and bonsai trees. Oh, and he does the insides of the computers too; here’s the innards of the Macintosh:

Lego Computers

See also my favorite custom Lego set, Stephen Hawking.

The original US patent drawing for the Lego brick, filed 60 years ago

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 29, 2018

Lego Patent

This is one of two drawings that accompanied Godtfred Kirk Christiansen’s US patent application for the Lego toy building brick. The application was submitted 60 years ago yesterday on Jan 28, 1958, an occasion that is celebrated annually as International LEGO Day. (thx, david)

Custom minifigs of Star Trek: The Next Generation characters

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2018

Star Trek Minifigs

Oh these are cool: custom-made minifigs of all your favorite Star Trek:TNG characters. The Wesley Crusher one is kinda funny, but Wil Wheaton makes a good case as to why it’s unfair to the character. And it turns out, you can get custom minifigs for just about everything, from LeBron James to Game of Thrones to yourself. (via io9)

Lego Grand Theft Auto

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 19, 2017

This video by Nukazooka of Grand Theft Auto being played by Lego characters is uncommonly well done. It looks more or less like the Lego Movie but made with a fraction of the budget.

Off-topic, but on their Twitter account I also discovered this cool 5-second video illustrating how air moves due to a passing semi truck. I can’t stop watching this!!

Lego New York

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 07, 2017

Lego New York

From J.R. Schmidt, a rendering of New York City in Lego. Prints are available. Be sure to check out his other work as well…cool stuff.

See also Christoph Niemann’s I Lego NY book. (thx alastair)

NASA Apollo Saturn V Lego set

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 22, 2017

Apollo 11 Lego

Lego has introduced an Apollo Saturn V rocket set, complete with lunar lander and 3 astronaut minifigs.

Packed with authentic details, it features 3 removable rocket stages, including the S-IVB third stage with the lunar lander and lunar orbiter. The set also includes 3 stands to display the model horizontally, 3 new-for-June-2017 astronaut microfigures for role-play recreations of the Moon landings, plus a booklet about the manned Apollo missions and the fan designers of this educational and inspirational LEGO Ideas set.

Three rocket stages! And look at this lander:

Apollo 11 Lego

Amazing detail: the set contains 1969 pieces, which is the year that the Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the Moon. I typically leave the Lego building to my kids, but I might have to make an exception for this. (via mike)

The design of these Lego shopping bags is 100% genius

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2016

Lego Bag Design

These Lego shopping bags are cleverly designed to make people carrying them look like they have Lego minifig arms. Fantastic design. (via @andrewbloch)

A Lego minifig with human skin

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 29, 2016

Um. Um, um, um. Uh. Frank Ippolito built a costume designed to look like a Lego minifig with real human skin. The hands — the haaaaaands!! — are super super super creepy.

Statistical analysis of 67 years of Lego sets

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2016

Legos Are Graying

Life-long Lego fan Joel Carron recently analyzed a data set containing the types, colors, and number of pieces in every Lego set from the past 67 years and graphed the results. The shift in colors is the most striking thing to me: Legos are graying.

Legos have gotten darker, with white giving way to black and gray. The transition from the old grays to the current bluish grays (or “bley”) is a hot-button topic for many Lego fans.

If you look at the dominant color palettes for all of the tie-in sets they’re doing now, it’s not difficult to see where those darker colors are coming from.

Behind the scenes of Legoland’s model workshop

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 09, 2016

Wired recently talked to a couple of Lego Master Builders about how they create new pieces for display at Legoland. They have a custom CAD program for making Lego structures (and people and animals) which can show MRI-like slices for whatever thing they’re working on for ease of construction. The subway station mosaic detail at the end is super cool.

Minecraft: more than just a game

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 14, 2016

Minecraft Niemann

Clive Thompson’s article for the NY Times about Minecraft captures what many players, parents, and teachers find exciting about the game that seems like more than just a game.

Presto: Jordan had used the cow’s weird behavior to create, in effect, a random-number generator inside Minecraft. It was an ingenious bit of problem-solving, something most computer engineers I know would regard as a great hack — a way of coaxing a computer system to do something new and clever.

In addition to learning about logic and computer science, various educators have also touted Minecraft’s lessons in civics, design, planning, and even philosophy. If you’ve ever seen little kids playing with blocks, you’ve noticed that some of those potential lessons there too.

Block-play was, in the European tradition, regarded as a particularly “wholesome” activity; it’s not hard to draw a line from that to many parents’ belief that Minecraft is the “good” computer game in a world full of anxiety about too much “screen time.”

Among the parents I know, Minecraft is not classified as a game…it’s very much tied to education.1 And when listening to the kids and their friends talk about it, if you can get past the endless chatter about zombies and diamond armor, their understanding of the whole world of possibilities is quite sophisticated.

And I can’t resist commenting on this little aside about Lego:

Today many cultural observers argue that Lego has moved away from that open-ended engagement, because it’s so often sold in branded kits: the Hogwarts castle from “Harry Potter,” the TIE fighter from “Star Wars.”

Until very recently, I was in that camp of cultural observers, frustrated by the brands and paint-by-number aspect of contemporary Lego kits. But my kids play with Lego a ton and I’ve observed plenty of open-ended engagement going on. Sure, they sit for 20-30 minutes putting the kits together using directions, but after they’re “done”, the real play begins. Ollie’s Star Wars ships dock at Minna’s birthday party. Soon, beach goers are wearing Stormtrooper helmets and Vader’s eating cupcakes. None of the “finished” products survive more than a few minutes without being augmented or taken apart to make something different. Ships take on wheels from previous kits and become delivery trucks (with cool laser cannons). Parts from every station, house, vehicle, and landscape get remixed into whatever’s necessary for their dramatic play. It’s like jazz with injection molded plastic.

  1. On my iPad, I have a screen full of educational apps that the kids can work with pretty much anytime they want without asking. (To play Alto’s Adventure or Subway Surfer, they have to ask.) Minecraft is not on this screen — and I had to explain my decision on this specifically to the kids — but this article may have persuaded me to add it.

Trailer for the upcoming Lego + The Force Awakens video game

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 02, 2016

Lego and Disney are teaming up for a Star Wars: The Force Awakens video game, out this summer. The trailer for it is possibly more fun than the movie was and is well worth watching if you enjoyed The Lego Movie.

The Free Universal Construction Kit

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 16, 2015

Universal Construction Kit

The Free Universal Construction Kit is a collection of almost 80 adapters between various construction toys like Lego, Lincoln Logs, Duplo, and K’nex (10 toys in all). The kit is available as freely downloadable designs for your 3D printer. The MoMA announced the acquisition of the Construction Kit for their permanent collection earlier this year.

Plastic injection molding is fascinating?

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 02, 2015

Yes, yes, it is fascinating. At least when Bill Hammack, aka Engineer Guy, explains how it all works. Don’t miss the bit at the end for how quietly ingenious Lego’s injection molding process is. (via digg)

The full-sized Lego car

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2015

Raul Oaida built a full-sized car out of half-a-million Lego pieces that actually drives. The 256-cylinder engine is powered by compressed air. Top speed is 20 mph.

This is a stunning and insanely clever achievement. My favorite part, aside from that 256-cylinder engine, is the windshield built out of two dozen tiny Lego windshields. (via devour)

Behind the scenes of The Lego Movie

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 13, 2015

Nice four-minute video about how the creators of The Lego Movie used CGI to make the movie look like it was 100% constructed with real Lego bricks with fingerprints and everything and animated in stop motion.

I’ve watched it twice with my kids, and The Lego Movie was way better than it had any right to be. They so easily could have bollocksed the whole thing up. Maybe the secret is Chris Pratt? Guardians of the Galaxy was better than it should have been as well. I’m bearish on Jurassic World, but come on Indy! (via devour)

A working Lego particle accelerator

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 25, 2014

Huh. Someone built a working particle accelerator out of Lego bricks. Ok, it doesn’t accelerate protons, but it does spin a small Lego ball around the ring much faster than I would have guessed.

Update: I stand corrected, the Lego particle accelerator does indeed accelerate protons, just a lot of them very slowly, accompanied by all manner of other particles.

Fantastic 1970s letter from Lego to parents

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 24, 2014

At some point in the 1970s, Lego included the following letter to parents in its sets:

Lego Letter

The text reads:

The urge to create is equally strong in all children. Boys and girls.

It’s imagination that counts. Not skill. You build whatever comes into your head, the way you want it. A bed or a truck. A dolls house or a spaceship.

A lot of boys like dolls houses. They’re more human than spaceships. A lot of girls prefer spaceships. They’re more exciting than dolls houses.

The most important thing is to the put the right material in the their hands and let them create whatever appeals to them.

The letter seems like the sort of thing that might be fake, but Robbie Gonzalez of io9 presents the case for its authenticity.

In our home, Lego currently rules the roost…the kids (a boy and a girl) spend more time building with Lego than doing anything else. This weekend, they worked together to build a beach scene, with a house, pool, lifeguard station, car, pond (for skimboarding), and surfers. Dollhouse stuff basically. Then they raced around the house with Lego spaceships and race cars. Nailed it, 1970s Lego.

Update: QZ confirms, the letter is genuine.