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Nikolaus Baumgarten

11 Web Toys for the Dog Days of Summer

Original image
Nikolaus Baumgarten

Sometimes you just have to drop what you’re doing, usually when it’s work, and take a break with something different and maybe even silly. You’re in luck- the internet is full of mindless activities to give your eyes and ears a treat and your brain a rest.

1. Catcordion

Catcordion is an online accordion made out of a cat. You play the instrument by changing the size of your browser window, like pushing in and pulling out a squeezebox. Grumpy Cat is shown here; you can also select Lil Bub, Fatso, or Maru.   

2. Touch Pianist

Play beautiful music even if you’ve never played an instrument with Touch Pianist. All you do is hit the keys on your keyboard or click your mouse and try to keep a proper rhythm. The notes are already there, and will play on your cue. There are 14 different classical pieces you can select.

3. Solitaire Win

Under normal circumstances, you want to hide the fact that you’re playing solitaire at work. Still, there are a couple of co-workers who already know what you’re doing, because they play, too. Impress them by having this toy ready when they walk by. Just click when you’re ready, and pepper the screen with falling cards to indicate that you’ve won a game you never played.

4. Very-Man

A generator from Adult Swim lets you take this poor virtual man and do all kids of horrible things to him. Put him in bright colors, make him dance in odd ways, and distort his body parts. Keep in mind that the labels on the controls have little to do with the actual parameter. You can make a gif out of your finished product if you like.

5. Make Wind

Press and Drag to Make Wind is a cute little web toy. No, it has nothing to do with farts, but there’s no title, so I used the available text. And those are the only instructions. And the lion does appreciate; you can tell by his smile. It must be a hot day in whatever virtual world he lives in!

6. Why Time Speeds Up As You Get Older

Maximilian Keiner gives us an interactive tool to simulate the advance of time over our lifespan. Be thankful that he gave us a 100-year life, as this is a data visualization about relativity. You scroll down to follow your life year after year—don’t worry, it doesn’t have events in it—and see where you are. It feels as if you’ll never get out of childhood, but then before you even realize it, years have slipped away in the blink of an eye. 

7. Pep Talk Generator

The Pep Talk Generator is one toy that has no pretty pictures, but can be useful when you need a little pick-me-up. Just hit the button and get a new pep talk, as many as you need. 

8. Bubbles

Bubbles looks like a grid of bubble wrap, but you can't pop the bubbles. However, they will grow if you place your cursor on one, and so will the surrounding bubbles. Clicking or dragging will not effect it. Some bubbles grow faster than others. Simple, yet intriguing.

9. ZoomQuilt

Here’s a classic that you may not be familiar with. Berlin artist Nikolaus Baumgarten and a team of more than a dozen other artists created the infinite zoom called ZoomQuilt in 2004, as a collaborative art project. It’s still as mesmerizing as it ever was, although it is now rendered in html5 instead of Flash, which will ensure its longevity.

ZoomQuilt II launched in 2007. You can see it here. Enjoy it while you can, because I hear Flash is on its way out.

10. Arkadia

Nikolaus Baumgarten created several other infinite zoom projects. Arkadia is particularly pretty and colorful.  

11. Yooouuutuuube

David Kraftsow developed the application named Yooouuutuuube. It generates a mosaic version of any YouTube video. Just fill in the blanks, and remember to use the pagetop URL for your video instead of the “share” URL. I like the “flux” effect best, which you can see in this example I whipped up. Drag the video while it plays to change direction or speed.

See more web toys in our previous lists.

10 Web Toys Perfect for Procrastinating

Whether you're doing your taxes last minute or studying for a big test, it can be hard to get motivated when you think about the long hours of work ahead. Make it easier by taking a short break every so often to do something a little more fun—like one of these fun web toys. (Just make sure to set an alarm so your break doesn’t eat up all your work time!) 

1. LSD: LINE, SQUARE, DOT

LSD is a very minimalist physics game. There’s a box. You can draw lines. And a dot falls. Your goal is to get the dot in the box. Simple, huh? All you have to do is draw lines in the right place to bounce the ball into the box. It’s doable, but maddening at times. Inertia is not your friend here—if you get your lines placed just right, that ball will bounce forever. As soon as you think you’re pretty good at it, you’ll be put in your place.

2. OPENPUPPIES

OpenPuppies does just what it says on the tin. Press the link, get a puppy (or more than one, if you’re lucky). Press the space bar to open another puppy. OpenPuppies was designed by Olivia Cheng.

3. TYPE DRUMMER

You can become a drummer just by typing, with Type Drummer. Replace the type that’s already in the box with your own. You can type complete sentences, or experiment with the different beats made by the keys on your keyboard. Load samples from other people if you need some inspiration. If you manage to make a beat you’re proud of, save it with a unique URL.

4. EMOJI MOSAIC

Emoji Mosaic by Eric Andrew Lewis is a web tool that reconstructs images using emojis. Just upload a picture, and wait for it to render. It’s not easy to see (much less recognize) each individual emoji, but if you have favorites, they may stand out. Surely you recognize Van Gogh’s Starry Night above. See some more examples here.

5. FURRY FRIEND PURR GENERATOR

Furry Friend bills itself as a “frequency-shaped cat purr noise generator.” You can change the parameters on the generator to create different purrs. The general idea is to emulate the soothing purr of a cat, which is known to have many benefits for humans. (It’s also nice for people who want a cat but can't have one.) You may be tempted to leave this on all the time, but be careful: The sound of even a simulated cat purr is so relaxing that you might fall asleep at the computer.

Don’t like cats? The folks behind the Furry Friend Purr Generator have other noise generators for every taste.

6. BOUNCY BALLS

Bouncy Balls gives you a pile of balls you manipulate with sound. The balls don't follow spoken instructions but instead move to the frequency and loudness of your typing or talking (and if you don’t want to turn your microphone on, you can throw the balls around with your cursor). You can adjust the number and bounciness of the balls, and change them to eyeballs or emojis for more weirdness!

7. PULL MY FINGER

Here’s a web toy that will appeal to the 12-year-old in all of us. Pull My Finger is the sum total of the instructions. You can guess what happens when you do.

8. PONGDRIAN

HappyToast saw the similarities of a Piet Mondrian artwork and the classic video game Pong, and made a gif to illustrate it. This was submitted to a b3ta image challenge for video game art. You can see all the submissions here. This was such a neat idea for a game that K.M. Hansen made a playable version called MondriPong 1.2. It takes a bit of dexterity to play both sides.

9. JOHN TRAVOLTAGE

This is a one-joke web toy, but hey, it stars John Travolta! In John Travoltage, you can move his leg and arm, but that’s all. What happens all depends on how you do those things. And be sure to leave the sound on.

10. SMILEY HAPPINESS CAUSED

Here’s a web toy that could also be a game if you played against someone and made up some rules. There’s a grid of faces. Click on them, and they will either start to smile or frown. Keep clicking after you think the face won’t change any more, and it might change again (or sometimes not). There's a score kept at the bottom—which you can maximize by concentrating on the happy faces instead of the frowny ones—but there's no high score or purpose here. (The grid is different every time you load it, so you can’t just memorize the faces that smile or frown to get ahead.) The game FAQ gives you reasons to keep clicking on the faces. A vague offer of a reward for clicking more did not induce me to try for a thousand clicks. 

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