Walking: most of us do it from time to time, and frankly, we're probably better people for it. Maybe that's why we're so easily charmed by machines that do the same, such as Theo Jansen's epic beach-roaming Strandbeests.
Jansen's work has already garnered quite a bit of attention, including the TED co-sign, but until his handcrafted herds reach critical mass, their biggest problem might be that they're too big: wander as they might, but most of us will never have the chance to see one in the wild. After facing the same problem in his full-size homage to the Strandbeest (below), Portland, OR's David Lansdowne decided to take it down a notch, from roughly the size of a sedan to that of, well, an RC car.
The "Humble Velocipede" is the flagship product of Small Wonder Toys, Lansdowne's venture with friends Dano Wall and Hannah Moshontz, who have successfully funded the critter several times over on Kickstarter. Its satisfyingly clacky bamboo footfalls evoke a Jacob's Ladder, while the abstracted form is a step up (so to speak) from wind-up walking contraptions of yore. And if the piston-like crankshaft mechanism isn't an innovation in itself, the nod to Jansen's artistic ambitions is duly noted.
In fact, I was interested to see that the Small World Toys team is also offering a decidedly more abstract kind of wall art as a reward. "Spoil Board" is an ultracontemporary maker epiphenomenon: scrap MDF that's been etched with the unerring paths of a CNC machine like digi-fab film negatives, deemed objets d'art by ITP's Ben Light (whose kinetic sculpture was one of our All City All Stars). Taken out of context, the criss-crossing vectors of Light's examples resemble everything from Roomba meanderings to minimalist subway maps; the Velocipede version looks something like an abstracted circuit board. Still, at $50 a pop, only one backer had taken them up on the upcycled artwork as of press time.
Now, let's see if Lansdowne can Kickstart a scaled-down version of his human-sized hamster wheel... to, say, the size of a pet rodent.