What if we could make objects transform in the same way a flower unfolds from its bud? This is what designer, Harvard professor, and accidental toy inventor Chuck Hoberman is trying to figure out. His work, ranging from international event installations, to toys, to ideas that have earned over 20 patents, all use math and engineering to emulate nature. This episode of Wired‘s Obsessed video series takes a closer look at his work:

Chuck Hoberman’s eponymous sphere is one of the best-loved toys of the last quarter century. But it’s only one example of his incredible work in transformable design. From adaptive nanotech to flexible building materials, Hoberman has created surprising and inventive designs at every scale.

The Hoberman sphere, like this rainbow mini sphere, is recognized by kids of all ages, and has been included in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. His original sphere, the second largest ever made, is at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey.

A pulley system holds the iconic Sphere in place over PSE&G Court. A computer program and a motor work together to time and control the Hoberman’s motions.


You may also know his mezmerizing Hoberman Switch Pitch.

See more of Hoberman’s transformational work: An origami-inspired model for reconfigurable materials. Plus: Hoberman spheres transform in this colorful kinetic installation.

Bonus: The Kresling-Pattern and our origami world and this Self-Folding Crawler: A Transformer-style Origami Robot.

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