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Syyn Labs's League of Extraordinary Nerds

Syyn Labs’s League of Extraordinary Nerds:

Syyn’s first official project was to help build the complex series of chain reactions that performed simple tasks — known as a Rube Goldberg machine after the legendary cartoonist who devised the concept — at the heart of indie rock band OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass” video. After it became a viral hit in the spring of 2010 (20 million views and counting on YouTube. Check it out — again. I’ll wait), corporate America came calling. Everyone from Google to Sears has tapped Syyn to build something that inspires wonder, gets their brand noticed, and is infused with the kind of unbridled joy that tends to get squashed out at most companies.

Syyn is discovering that the playfulness game can be a tough racket. Most clients just want what worked for the last guy, and Sadowsky, Syyn’s president and sole full-time employee, insists, “We’re not a Rube Goldberg company.” These guys can make a car-battery commercial beguiling, but it may take some beer and an all-nighter in the desert to do it…

Syyn is itself the embodiment of a Rube Goldberg machine: an eclectic cast of characters, featuring seven founders and some 50 volunteers, ages 24 to 40, whose assembled talents cause a domino effect of creativity. “I have a hard time categorizing them,” says Cristin Frodella, a senior product-marketing manager at Google who hired Syyn to build a machine to publicize its global online science fair, which was set to launch in January. “They’re fun, smart, geeky, and really plugged-in.” Gradman, who at times sports a red Mohawk, is a fire-juggling circus performer, rock musician, semiprofessional whistler, and software engineer. Bushnell is a video-game developer, serial entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley royalty (he’s the son of Atari founder Nolan Bushnell). Heather Knight, the only woman among the dozen or so regulars, has worked at both the MIT Media Lab and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and is earning a PhD in robotics at Carnegie Mellon while simultaneously starting Marilyn Monrobot Labs, a robot theater company. “It was cool and all, making things for space,” Knight says, “but I was looking for a creative outlet.”

(via Boing Boing)

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