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This Quirky Tool Prototypes Furniture Out Of Tape

An odd but quick solution to 3-D sketching your living room decor.

The Protopiper is proof that innovation sometimes sits between AutoCAD and balloon animals. Created by a team of researchers from Germany’s HPI Human Computer Interaction Lab, the Protopiper allows you to air-sketch large-scale objects in real space–from tables, to couches, to hinged cabinets, to functional volleyball nets. It’s like wireframing in real life.

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But its mechanics are what make the Protopiper so charming. It’s essentially a modified tape dispenser, built to carefully roll the tape into a tube, then slice the tubing with a heating element. The premise sounds almost too silly to work, but there’s a lot of attention to the functional detail. In fact, each extruded tube is actually tipped with a little flap of tape, so you can squirt, slice, and tape your structure together, without ever putting down the Protopiper.

It’s tempting to make a practical argument for such a device, like, “The Prototiper could allow architects and interior designers to rapidly prototype new spaces!” But the Protopiper feels less like a perfect solution for this world, and more like the answer for an alternate universe–one where furniture startups weren’t already leveraging your iPad to mock up furniture inside your home.

Having said that, the Protopiper’s crafty quirkiness is just so damned appealing, isn’t it? Who wouldn’t want to have a Protopiper stuffed alongside all the tape into their junk drawer–if only as an easier alternative to blowing up all those balloons at a child’s birthday party?

[via Prosthetic Knowledge]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day.

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