Since this is described as a pre-school toy and is recommended for ages 3 and up, it is going to be somewhat difficult to explain why I spent 30 minutes in a toy store tonight completely mesmerized by it, but I'm going to try.
Gearation is a battery-powered toy manufactured by Tomy. It consists of a magnetic black rectangular base framed by cheerful yellow plastic with a light purple surround which incorporates a carrying handle at the top and a switch at each of the bottom two corners. In the center of the black area is a small rotating nub which acts as a spindle. The direction of the spindle is reversable and there are two speeds to choose from, hence the two switches.
Along with the base comes a set of eleven brightly-colored cog-driven mechanisms. The very simplest mechanism consists of a cog which turns an attached spiral design. Others are more elaborate; there's one with a ratchet inside that clicks and whirrs, one which has a face with oversized eyes that move, one which drives a multi-colored inner wheel that is visible through holes in the cog casing, one with a surface which flips back and forth to reveal two different faces, and so on.
Ok, here's where the fun starts. Flick the switch on the bottom right to start the spindle turning and place one of the cogs in the center of the magnetic base so that the spindle engages and begins to drive it. Now simply place successive cogs on the board and slide them in towards the center cog until the gears mesh. You can continue adding more and more cogs to the growing collection of clicking, flipping, spinning mechanisms. The motor is comfortably strong enough to drive all eleven of them at once, and by the time they're all placed and interconnected, the board is alive with color, sound, and movement. And because they're all held on with a magnet, it's possible to push them around the board while they're actually working and rearrange them without disengaging them.
I honestly don't know exactly what I found so appealing about this toy. Part of it at least was the strangely malleable nature of it. The fact that it could be drastically re-arranged just be pushing it around the board somehow imbued it with an organic quality, which was a pleasantly incongruous feeling given it is actually purely mechanical in nature.
This is a hypnotic, engaging, and oddly satisfying plaything, and as if that wasn't enough, while looking for an online photo for this writeup I came across an "Amusement Park Add-On Pack", which contains an upright ferris wheel, a sky-ride, and three or four other vertical cog mechanisms. Oooh.
Of course, I won't actually be buying this toy for myself.... I'll be buying the Refrigerator Magnets version. I'm an adult, after all.
- Gearation photo at http://www.kidsketch.com/preschool.html
- Amusement Park Add-On Pack at http://www.kidsketch.com/tomy/tomy16.html
- Refrigerator Magnets at http://www.intplay.com/tomy.html (this link also includes smaller pictures of the other two packs)