Remember that Saturday Night Live bit from last year when "Steve Bannon" (someone in a Skeletor-faced Death costume) sent "President Trump" (Alec Baldwin) to a smaller kids’ desk in the Oval Office? the name may not have been on the tip of your tongue then, but the toy that Trump/Baldwin begins to play with is called a Hoberman sphere—and its creator has made scores of other contraptions just as mathematically complex.
Like what? Well, for one Chuck Hoberman also worked on a 4,000-square-foot expanding video screen for U2’s 360° Tour and consulted on the iris-like opening of the roof at Mercedez-Benz Stadium. But after years of making geometrically-complex objects using joints and hinges, the artist-turned-engineer is pivoting to a different form of inspiration: origami.
"Up until about 20 years ago, origami was a craft and an art," Hoberman says the latest episode of WIRED’s Obsessed . "Now it’s a topic of math, engineering, robotics, structures. It’s being studied in all of its full glory."
To find out what he can do with large-scale origami, Hoberman cuts various pieces out of plastic and assembles them to see if they work together to make viable structures. Mathematics, he says, has shows "a flat sheet can be folded into any shape at all," and those shapes could be very beneficial to engineers.
The thing that ties Hoberman’s well-known sphere to his new work is what he calls "transformative design." "Most designed objects are static through their lifetime and eventually disposed of," he says. "I'm looking for a different angle on it, which is: What if those objects were dynamic and alive and in movement around us?" In other words, his career has come full-circle.
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