There is something magical about objects that can transform, taking on multiple functional identities at different times.

The idea goes back to antiquity, but it has taken on a new kind of resonance in our modern technology-obsessed world. In 1948, four year old Bernadette Castro starred in commercials for her father’s convertible couches, incidentally becoming the most televised child in America.

I remember as a child having a toy that was themed from some then-popular TV spy show, which at the press of a button would magically transform between a camera and a gun. It didn’t actually function as either, which was probably a good thing, but I didn’t care. Just the idea of a magical transformation of form and function made me happy.

There are so many examples of this power in popular culture, from Q’s gadgets to George Jetson’s flying saucer / suitcase, and of course the man himself, Inspector Gadget.

Children today obsess over a certain eponymous toy/mega-movie franchise, but I don’t really like the whole rhetoric of “they can do this because they are space aliens”. I don’t want magically transformable objects just in my space aliens. I want them in my real life!!!

Is that asking too much?

4 thoughts on “Transformers”

  1. Great computational geometry problem: Given two complex solid 3D shapes (say, a sports car and a dinosaur) automatically compute the articulation and folding pattern to have one change into the other.

  2. No worries. You can just hold onto your car, wait a few years, and it will probably become a dinosaur all on its own.

  3. I enjoyed this interview by one of the designers of transformers. I had previously noticed that his Bumblebee was different than the other transforming toys my son owned, that there was some art to it. He discusses connections with origami, and the idea of making something that just transforms from one abstract shape to another, that just has a bistable form.

  4. I found the wing of a dead bird once, and manipulating it I realized that it had that quality of having two forms which had both been optimized for their purpose and a smooth transformation between them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *