Big Box

Published March 04, 2018

As of March 3rd, 2018, there does not exist a digital ‘browsing’ experience as generative (or as random) as the physical one. The experience of finding those things we do not know we are looking for is difficult to replicate in the digital world. In the digital world, connections between books, products, etc. are all due to logical connection algorithms – algorithms that presume to know why we would be looking for something in the first place. In the real world, the world in which we often do not know exactly what we need, finding those things that fall on the same shelf as what we thought we were looking for (whether due to adjacent library call numbers or otherwise) can be a good chance to both broaden our understanding of the available products to fit a certain need, and narrow our focus within that range.

I went to Target this weekend looking for ‘soft’ products. I did not know exactly what to look for besides towels. Below is a list of products which were most interesting to me for a particular property (without a specific purpose in mind):

  • Diapers / Diapers are (unsurprisingly) very absorbent. I could imagine a use-case for holding fluid in place within a fluid-filled soft robot, preventing it from sloshing around within an un-bound area.
  • Coffee Filters / Selective permeability. Coffee filters and filters in general might be useful in mold making or casting – perhaps to help restrict stretching of silicone instead of paper or cloth.
  • Oven Glove / Somehow this thin glove claims to be heat resistant. I’m not sure what exactly it is made of, but this heat resistant cloth could protect a soft robot in a very hot environment.
  • Command Hook / Stickiness & Removability. The sticky side of a “Command Hook” is somehow able to be removed without damaging walls. Something like this could be used as a foot for a climbing robot.
  • Silicone Ice Cube Trays / These trays are very slippery and allow ice to fall out of them easily.
  • Microfiber / Stickiness. Microfiber cloths feel very sticky to the touch and seem able to stick to just about anything.
  • Peeps (Marshmallow Candy) / Peeps marshmallows are very low density. They are also very fun!
  • Wind Jacket (very thin nylon) / I found incredibly thin and light ‘packable’ rain jackets which can be stuffed into a very small space and expand out without being damaged. They look similar to Tyvek, but feel very much like Nylon.
  • Expanding garden hose / Expanding garden hoses have a mechanism which naturally expands when there is a greater pressure inside of a hose than out (when water is flowing through) and retracts when the hose is empty of fluid.
  • Copper Embedded Silicone Baking Mats / These baking mats have copper embedded into a silicone surface to help with heat distribution. They present an exciting mix of properties and materials in a single product.
  • “Flex Tape” Sealant / This silicone tape sticks to itself when taped around leaking pipes. I have used it myself to great effect. It works because it is both elastic and sticks to itself. The elasticity helps create a tight seal around the leaking pipe.