Thanks to its surprisingly successful Kickstarter campaign, you might’ve heard of Antsy Lab’s Fidget Cube, which raised $6.4 million after setting a relatively meager $15,000 funding goal. Composed of buttons, dials, and switches — all of which don’t actually do anything other than give you something to prod — the Fidget Cube is a cheap option for the budget fidgeter. If you want something prettier, a different type of fidget motion, or something that scratches your collector’s itch, fidget spinners are the way to go; specifically, MD Engineering’s Torqbar and EME Tools’ Rotablade Stubby.
Much in the way the Fidget Cube’s buttons and dials don’t “do” anything other than get pressed and turned, fidget spinners spin. That’s it. They feel nice in your hand like worry stones do, and they easily spin with a flick of the finger. The spinners tend to come in a variety of metal bodies, like brass, copper, stainless steel, and titanium, and are constructed to spin for a while if you want to zone out and stare — the heavier the metal, the longer the spin. Generally, you’ll be flicking them back and forth more than you’ll be trying to reach their maximum spin time.
When introducing testers or random passersby to a spinner, the conversation always went the same way. We’d tell them what it was and they’d have some sort of aggressively incredulous response, but then we’d put it in their hand and in a matter of seconds they’d say how much they like it and wouldn’t want to give it back — every single time, without fail.
It may not sound like it, but these fidget toys — the Cube included — could very well improve your day-to-day by giving you an innocuous outlet for your nervous or bored energy, and our testers unanimously found this to be true. Some of us played with the spinners instead of bit our nails and cuticles — I went from short nails and raw skin to being able to squeeze a lemon into a glass of water with no problem. Some found we were more present in our daily lives — fidgeting with the spinner on the subway and paying attention to our surroundings rather than burying our faces in our phones. A few of us noticed we got up from our desks less, dumping energy into fidgeting with the spinner rather than taking mindless trips to the pantry. Our engagement level with the spinners varied from tester to tester, but we all preferred having them around, and found ourselves reaching for it when we were doing things that didn’t require both hands, from editing an article to simply waiting for the elevator.
We also found that the spinners are a good conversation piece. People tend to wonder what in the world you’re playing with, and when someone actually recognizes them, it’s like an instant bonding moment. Funnily enough, after having a frustrating couple days at the Apple Store trying to get my phone battery repaired in a reasonable time, an Apple technician noticed my spinner, struck up a conversation, and smoothly helped me along the process. Some of us also found that the spinners scratched our collector’s and hobbyist itch. I kind of want to catch ’em all and display them on a shelf, whereas others looked into how to build their own.
Ultimately, though, there isn’t enough research regarding whether or not these spinners can actually help people from a mental health standpoint. Basically, you’d have to try it for yourself. If you’re interested, you can find a whole market of cheap 3D-printed plastic, wooden, and metal spinners on Etsy to see if the basic concept is something that works for you without draining your wallet.
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Writer: James Plafke