Born from forays into the worlds of fine art and sophisticated science, Zoob is a toy with a pedigree, a deceptively simple building set designed to duplicate everything from a molecule to a dinosaur.
For its creator, 36-year-old Michael Joaquin Grey, it's also the start of a slowly growing San Francisco toy company formed to manufacture and market what he describes as "an open-ended design system."
"I'm not really a toy designer," Grey told Kidscape.com, describing a diverse background that includes studies in genetics and mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley and a master's degree in fine art from Yale. Pre-Zoob, most of Grey's work could be seen in galleries and exhibitions around the world.
In fact, the toy's genesis began several years ago when an art dealer glimpsed some prototypes at Grey's New York studio and suggested they might have potential as playthings. Zoob is currently available in sets with 12, 30, 70, 120, and 280 pieces.
"I usually say that it's an organic building system that's based in the way things work in nature," Grey explains. Its five ball-and-socket components can be connected to form sophisticated structures like a pelvis or collapsible sphere but Grey is reluctant to label Zoob an educational toy.
"It's more of a discovery type of thing than educational," he says. "It doesn't have to be explained to you."
Growing up in Los Angeles and New York, Grey recalls Tinker Toys, Monopoly, and Hot Wheels as favorite toys from his childhood. "Hot Wheels really dominated my consciousness for a long time," he says.
Today, as CEO of nearly two-year-old Primordial, LLC, Grey says he's extremely pleased with Zoob's initial response and hopes to expand the toy line "into a lot of different areas."
Perhaps the most satisfying response, however, is the mind-boggling items constructed by creative Zoob fans, a colorful, kinetic gallery that has included Ferris wheels, racecars, suspension bridges, helicopters, and hoop skirts.
"I feel very humble to be the inventor," Grey admits. "I'm certainly not the creator of all these things. I'm not the best Zoob builder."
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