Clocks, robots, elastic: It’s the art of gadgetry

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Clocks, robots, elastic: It’s the art of gadgetry

If there’s a difference between imagination and idle fancy, it may be the creative forces behind them ― or so posits the exhibition “Early Adopter,” at the Kumho Museum in central Seoul.
The exhibition, sponsored by Sony Korea, displays some of the most unexpected, quirky human inventions ― high-tech gadgets, toys and product designs ― that came from artists’ trivial questions about their surroundings.
One of the products that best describes the exhibition’s concept is “CD Lifter” by Tommy Larsen, a Danish designer. This little aluminum device with a rubber plunger in the center allows a person to move CDs or DVDs from a case to the player without using fingers to touch the disk. The device works by placing the lifter over the center of the disk and pushing down on the rubber bubble in the center. When a vacuum is created, the person can remove the disk or return it to its case.
H Concept, a Japanese design firm, introduces an animal elastic band that snaps back into shape after use, even after enduring up to 190 degrees centigrade (375 degrees Fahrenheit) of heat.
And there are nifty clocks on display. “The Tube,” a table clock, is a cylinder pipe that rolls as it ticks. As the pipe slowly rotates, it gives a vague indication of time at five-minute intervals by passing red marks on its plane. “A voice-photo clock” by Brookstone is an alarm clock featuring a picture frame on each end of an hour scale and a digital recorder that allows a person to record a voice to be played at every hour. A puzzle clock that ticks as it moves is also amusing.
If the museum’s ground floor is a playground for adults, the basement is a space for kids, displaying radical electric toys like flying pigs and car miniatures.
Some of the popular toys include “Mutsu” ― an interactive virtual fish that responds to voice commands, movement and sounds by talking, dancing and even singing. The latest model of Aibo, an interactive robot dog made by Sony, comes with nine LED displays and 19 flashing lamps that respond to its surroundings.
Like many good designs, the works on display at Kumho do not put a priority on functionality. As one looks through the show, it isn’t uncommon to see someone staring at a piece and asking, “What do you need this for?”
Nevertheless, the exhibition teaches an important lesson about the creative process ― that human imagination, no matter how idle the thoughts may be, has always been the root of technological development, since it allows us to understand how others feel, their frustrations and their needs.
In this sense, “Early Adopter” also allows a clear path of how art should penetrate its audience in the next century.


by Park Soo-mee

“Early Adopter” runs through Sunday at the Kumho Museum in central Seoul. Tours are at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. For more information call (02) 720-5114 or check out earlyadopter.co.kr.
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