11 Web Toys for the Dog Days of Summer

Nikolaus Baumgarten
Nikolaus Baumgarten / Nikolaus Baumgarten

Sometimes you just have to drop what you’re doing, usually when it’s work, and take a break with something different and maybe even silly. You’re in luck- the internet is full of mindless activities to give your eyes and ears a treat and your brain a rest.

1. Catcordion

Catcordion is an online accordion made out of a cat. You play the instrument by changing the size of your browser window, like pushing in and pulling out a squeezebox. Grumpy Cat is shown here; you can also select Lil Bub, Fatso, or Maru.   

2. Touch Pianist

Play beautiful music even if you’ve never played an instrument with Touch Pianist. All you do is hit the keys on your keyboard or click your mouse and try to keep a proper rhythm. The notes are already there, and will play on your cue. There are 14 different classical pieces you can select.

3. Solitaire Win

Under normal circumstances, you want to hide the fact that you’re playing solitaire at work. Still, there are a couple of co-workers who already know what you’re doing, because they play, too. Impress them by having this toy ready when they walk by. Just click when you’re ready, and pepper the screen with falling cards to indicate that you’ve won a game you never played.

4. Very-Man

A generator from Adult Swim lets you take this poor virtual man and do all kids of horrible things to him. Put him in bright colors, make him dance in odd ways, and distort his body parts. Keep in mind that the labels on the controls have little to do with the actual parameter. You can make a gif out of your finished product if you like.

5. Make Wind

Press and Drag to Make Wind is a cute little web toy. No, it has nothing to do with farts, but there’s no title, so I used the available text. And those are the only instructions. And the lion does appreciate; you can tell by his smile. It must be a hot day in whatever virtual world he lives in!

6. Why Time Speeds Up As You Get Older

Maximilian Keiner gives us an interactive tool to simulate the advance of time over our lifespan. Be thankful that he gave us a 100-year life, as this is a data visualization about relativity. You scroll down to follow your life year after year—don’t worry, it doesn’t have events in it—and see where you are. It feels as if you’ll never get out of childhood, but then before you even realize it, years have slipped away in the blink of an eye. 

7. Pep Talk Generator

The Pep Talk Generator is one toy that has no pretty pictures, but can be useful when you need a little pick-me-up. Just hit the button and get a new pep talk, as many as you need. 

8. Bubbles

Bubbles looks like a grid of bubble wrap, but you can't pop the bubbles. However, they will grow if you place your cursor on one, and so will the surrounding bubbles. Clicking or dragging will not effect it. Some bubbles grow faster than others. Simple, yet intriguing.

9. ZoomQuilt

Here’s a classic that you may not be familiar with. Berlin artist Nikolaus Baumgarten and a team of more than a dozen other artists created the infinite zoom called ZoomQuilt in 2004, as a collaborative art project. It’s still as mesmerizing as it ever was, although it is now rendered in html5 instead of Flash, which will ensure its longevity.

ZoomQuilt II launched in 2007. You can see it here. Enjoy it while you can, because I hear Flash is on its way out.

10. Arkadia

Nikolaus Baumgarten created several other infinite zoom projects. Arkadia is particularly pretty and colorful.  

11. Yooouuutuuube

David Kraftsow developed the application named Yooouuutuuube. It generates a mosaic version of any YouTube video. Just fill in the blanks, and remember to use the pagetop URL for your video instead of the “share” URL. I like the “flux” effect best, which you can see in this example I whipped up. Drag the video while it plays to change direction or speed.

See more web toys in our previous lists.