Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends
How new technologies are modifying our way of life

samedi 17 avril 2004

Unless you're a dedicated yo-yo fan and a serious competitor, I doubt that you'll hand over $400 for a yo-yo. Even if it's a state-of-the-art high-tech yoyo made with a forged-magnesium-alloy and coming with the latest in axle technology. With this one, you can use the freehand style, meaning that your hand is not connected to the yo-yo, but is replaced by a small counterweight. In "Reinventing the Yo-Yo," Science News Online says "its balance is ensured with precision tooling to micrometer tolerances by a computer-controlled lathe." This long article doesn't solely focus on this luxury item. Instead, it looks at the history and the physics of the yo-yo, and includes many references. A good read for a weekend!

But let's concentrate on the high-tech Freehand Mg model designed and sold by the Duncan Toys Company, one of the oldest yo-yo manufacturers in the U.S.

Not so long ago, Duncan sold only $2 or $3 yo-yos, many of them not much different from the product that the company offered in 1929, when Donald F. Duncan Sr. bought a fledgling yo-yo company. In the last decade, however, the company has been scrambling to keep up with a wave of technological innovation launched by other yo-yo aficionados and small manufacturers. Those developments have been transforming yo-yos into precision instruments.
But isn't a $400 yo-yo a bit over the top? Even Stephen D. Brown, Duncan's chief yo-yo designer, admits that its premium materials and precision of the machining go well beyond what's needed for even the highest levels of play. But with those additions, Brown says, the company has made a top-notch toy for dedicated yo-yo fans and competitors, and the high-tech plaything does double duty as a publicity gimmick.

But what makes the Freehand unique is the way you play with.

In freehand style, invented by Duncan's Brown, the player end of the yo-yo string connects not to the player's hand but to a small counterweight that is heavy enough to keep the string taut yet light enough that it doesn't act as too much of a drag on the yo-yo as it gets thrown and flipped around. At the start of a trick, the string near the counterweight rests between the player's fingers, but later the player repeatedly releases and catches either the string or the counterweight.
The original Freehand yo-yo The original Freehand yo-yo was the only yo-yo in the world that didn't need to be tied to your hand. With its patented counter-weight system, you can let go of the yo-yo in mid-trick, making the impossible look easy (Credit: Duncan Toys Company).

For more information about the technology, you can look at the U.S. Patent No. 6,371,824 filed by Brown under the name "Yo-yo and method for using a yo-yo." Just enter the patent number on this page.

You can also read this page about Duncan Yo-Yo Technologies.

Sources: Science News Online, Week of April 17, 2004; Duncan Toys Company website

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