Lego 'Lord of the Rings' sets astound in hands-on video

One ring to rule them all, and in the darkness build them! Yes, here's a sight for Sauron's eyes -- we've gone hands-on with the yet-to-be-released "Lord of the Rings" Lego sets ahead of their U.K. release. Hit play in the video below to see what manner of Uruk-hai-jinks Lego has in store for Tolkien fans. … Read more

Build Legos in Chrome with Google Build

The Lego land grab is on. Google Chrome and Lego Australia fastened themselves together to roll out Build, a Web app for Chrome that lets you build impressively realistic Lego structures right within Google's browser.

To get started, you can browse the map to find an open plot or click the blue Build button and have Build find one for you. Each plot is a 32-by-32-peg square, and you are given 1,000 virtual bricks to use. There are 10 different type of Lego bricks in 10 different colors, plus two extras: a door and a window. (My son … Read more

Google and Lego launch brick building for your browser

Find yourself a little bored at work, or maybe want to embark on a half-hour adventure away from the norm?

Wander over to Build, a virtual Lego play set placed upon a Google Maps view of the land Down Under. The interactive Web site, perfect for amateur architects, uses 3D graphics powered by WebGL -- supported by most modern browsers such as Chrome and Firefox (Internet Explorer 9, however, provided a nonfunctional experience).

To start, each user picks a plot of land in Australia or New Zealand. Builders choose from 12 different basic brick styles, as well as a door and window. The opportunities seem slightly limited with such a small selection of bricks, but at least you can choose from a range of prismatic hues. … Read more

Looking ahead to the 'Star Wars' Lego sets

The next generation of "Star Wars" Lego hardware includes two sweet throwback scenes that will tempt any fan of the sci-fi series, as well as a cluster of exotic early-trilogy ships, according to images and information garnered from past toy fairs and a recent update on Lego's official site.

Jabba's Palace, pictured above, appears to be the easy winner in the summer 2012 collection with an all-star cast of nine characters including Leia as Boushh the bounty hunter and a captured Chewbacca. While the $119 tag might turn off some buyers, the charm factor appears high. We love Jabba's ridiculous form factor, his hyena-like minion Salacious Crumb, and the foreboding Han frozen in Carbonite. While the play area appears limited, other views indicate the 717-piece set offers far more detail than first meets the eye. … Read more

Creepy! Lego unveils first-ever Haunted House set

It's not Halloween yet, but don't tell Lego that.

The global toymaker has unveiled its $180 Lego Haunted House set, which will be part of its Monster Fighters line, and which it plans to launch in September. The new set has three floors of "creepy creations and ghastly ghouls," according to the company, and features a hidden staircase, an attic gramophone, spider webs, and broken floorboards. … Read more

'Star Wars' M.C. Escher Lego model a perfect geek storm

Paul Vermeesch is my kind of geek. The longtime Lego tinkerer has captured nerd lightning in a bottle with an elaborate Lego diorama featuring "Star Wars" characters battling it out in a 3D version of M.C. Escher's famous "Relativity" print. Be still my beating heart!

The model presents pretty much the entire original "Star Wars" trilogy. You could easily spend hours staring at the staircases and reenacting the movie scenes in your mind with the help of Vermeesch's strategically placed Lego minifigures.

Vermeesch even thought through how the colors reflect the particular film scenes he chose. The delight is in the details. Oh look, there's Luke's detached hand, still clinging to his lightsaber. … Read more

Nintendo gets social and connected with Wii U, but leaves out price, release date at E3

LOS ANGELES--Nintendo had already unveiled the Wii U well before E3 started, but there were a lot of things going into this show that we didn't know. Nintendo's keynote spent a great deal of time detailing what the Wii U can do, what its online and app services are, and what games we can expect to see. A small amount of time was also spent on the Nintendo 3DS, but today's event was clearly dedicated to the Wii U.

What we didn't get, however, was a date and price. Not surprising, but anticlimactic all the same.… Read more

Making bogus bar codes: Just how hard is it?

Several San Francisco Bay Area Target stores were the recent, uhhh, target of not one, but two unrelated barcode scammers who apparently found the manufactuer's suggested price of Lego sets too much to bear.

The two men allegedly replaced the bar codes on Lego boxes with phony bar codes, allowing them to waltz out of the store with hundreds of dollars worth of the building blocks for a fraction of the actual price.

And to add a touch of "you-can't-make-this-up" flair, one of the accused is a VP at software giant SAP. According to authorities, the … Read more

After more than 30 years, Grid Beam modular construction system comes to market

This year at the San Francisco Bay Area Maker Faire, trying to juggle my own interests (talk to cool people) and my 5-year-old son's (build or break stuff), we both hit paydirt at the same time when we stumbled across the Grid Beam exhibit.

My kid spent 45 minutes in the hot sun inventing and screwing together a life-size car-like contraption, and I got to dive into the minutiae of the product with its creators, Phil and Richard Jergenson.

Grid Beam is Erector Set meets IKEA. The hardware is standard 2x2 wood beams with holes drilled through every 1 1/2 inches (which is the actual width of a 2x2 beam), and standard furniture bolts that will be familiar to anyone who's ever assembled a futon frame.… Read more

Lego for girls, this time hardware-hacker style

For Limor Fried, a hardware hacker and leader in the booming maker and do-it-yourself movements, there was never a question of waiting for someone else to jump in and do a better job of inspiring girls than Lego has done with its widely-panned Lego Friends set.

The product was featured on the cover of Bloomberg Business Week last year and drew worldwide attention as the global toy company's first major attempt at showcasing girls in a new set. Still, many Lego fans were upset that the company had focused on well-worn stereotypes and had ignored the modern reality that girls can do pretty much anything they want, whether or not there's pink or purple involved.

For Fried, who runs open-source hardware developer Adafruit Industries, it sounded like it was time for a little culture hacking.

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