Pinhole cameras

Courtesy of Anthropologie

1. What a Concept!
Pinhole cameras handcrafted from vintage books
The Inspiration: After she was laid off as a Seattle city planner, Erin Paysse was looking for fun at-home projects when an iPhone box caught her eye. "If you took the plastic tray that held the phone and flipped it upside down, it looked just like a camera," says Paysse, a self-confessed arts-and-design geek who tooled with that box until she'd made a working 35mm pinhole camera out of it. Her next picture-taking device was constructed from a cigar box; later she scooped out pages from vintage hardbacks and used the covers as camera fodder. As Paysse's stack of book-cameras grew, she started posting some of them on the online crafter's paradise Etsy for around $200 each; in less than a month, her creations caught the attention of Anthropologie, which ordered up a batch. Now, Paysse says, "I have to figure out what to make from all these leftover pages."
—Jessica Silvester
Children's gym equipment

Courtesy of

2. What a Concept!
A racecar driver's gizmo reimagined for kids
The Inspiration: Marc Sickel runs a children's gym where he sees a lot of Nintendo-induced hypnosis. "Parents can't drag their kids away from video games," says the founder of Fitness for Health in Rockville, Maryland. "I thought there had to be a way to tap into that obsession"—especially if it could help children with special needs. Sickel reached out to the makers of a machine used to sharpen the reaction time of Formula One racecar drivers and adapted the device as an interactive game for kids with autism and attention disorders. Standing in front of a wall of flashing disks, gamers reach up, down, and across their bodies to shut off the lights in quick succession. "The machine aims to help kids become better visual planners," says Lance Clawson, MD, a psychiatrist who specializes in children with autism and ADHD. "They learn how to scan their environment—focusing on information they need and filtering out what they don't—and decide how to respond. So when, for example, someone reaches out to shake hands, the kid can figure out what to do."
—Jessica Stockton Clancy

Courtesy of Ginger Krieg Dosier

3. What a Concept!
Growing bricks in a lab
The inspiration: Producing a brick, which requires mining clay or shale, then firing it in a kiln at thousand-degree temperatures, leaves a heck of a carbon footprint. "All to make something that can't compare to the structural efficiency of a simple seashell," says architect Ginger Krieg Dosier, who, as a little girl in Alabama, was obsessed with collecting shells. Dosier resolved to channel the genius of nature into a greener building block: Consulting chemists and microbiologists, she began harvesting bricks in a laboratory by mixing sand with a solution of bacteria and other compounds, which crystallize and cohere into a block as rigid as cement and as tawny as the desert. A professor at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, Dosier hopes her seashell-inspired bricks can someday replace their old-school counterparts en masse, slashing annual carbon emissions by hundreds of millions of tons.
—Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow

Courtesy of ASPCA

4. What a Concept!
A spay-and-neuter program for pit bulls
The inspiration: When veterinarian Louise Murray told her husband, a fire department captain, about her concept for a free sterilization program for pit bulls—a "Pit-y Party," with flyers designed as "invitations"—"he and the guys at the station burst out laughing," recalls Murray, who runs the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City. Realizing she'd stumbled across the perfect focus group—tough guys who weren't exactly eager to emasculate their dogs—Murray kept brainstorming. The fellows finally gave her the thumbs-up on the military-themed "Operation Pit" (slogan: "We're looking for a few good dogs"), which includes free vaccinations, plus camo-print bandannas and "honorable discharge" papers for participating dogs (pit bulls account for almost two-thirds of dogs in NYC shelters). One of the firemen even lent his voice to the appointment hotline. In the program's first six months, the hospital spayed, neutered, or provided vasectomies for more than 200 pits: a hundredfold increase over the previous six-month period.
—Jessica Silvester

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