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Astrojax is a trademark of Active People, Switzerland, for a toy consisting of three balls on a string. One ball is fixed at each end of the string, and the center ball is free to slide along the string between the two end balls. Inside each ball is a metal weight. The metal weight lowers the moment of inertia of the center ball so it can rotate rapidly in response to torques applied by the string. This prevents the string from snagging or tangling around the center ball.
Roughly, Astrojax play is a cross between juggling, yo-yo, and lasso. A wide variety of tricks and maneuvers can be performed with it. The basic orbits are vertical orbits, horizontal orbits and a figure-eight (butterfly) pattern.
Astrojax was invented by physics graduate student Larry Shaw in 1987. It first appeared on the market in 1994, when it was sold through The Nature Company, under the name of "Orbit Balls." Over the next several years it won a number of toy awards. In 2000 Astrojax was acquired by Active People, a Swiss company specializing in yo-yos, juggling toys, kites and open-ended toys such as Bilibo. In 2003 corporate chains such as Target, Walmart, KB Toys, and Toys-R-Us started to carry the product.
Active People sells several different types of Astrojax:
- The Plus is made of a soft foam and, because of the softness of the balls, is the best version for beginners. It is good for rebound tricks but not particularly showy.
- The V-max is made from a durable polycarbonate. Because of the reduced friction, the V-max is good for faster moves. The V-max is available in a variety of colours, including half-chromed collectors' editions Black Jack, Amber, Lagoon, Snow White, Pachuli and Hyper Frog.
- The Saturn is made from high-quality plastic and has LEDs inside each ball. The LEDs can be set to be constantly on or a strobing, "disco" mode. The standard Saturn has balls with red, yellow and green LEDs. There is also a version with super-bright blue LEDs called the Blue Diamond.
- The liquid-filled Aqua has a soft bladder of phthalate-free PVC on a hard plastic "vortex." The fluid flows within the bladder dynamically lower the moment of inertia of the balls.
- The MX is a modular version of Astrojax. The modular components are a pressed-metal central weight, two-part vortex, outer mantel (of either foam or thermoplastic resin), string buds, and string. All the modular components, except the central weight, come in at least four colors, thereby allowing a large number of custom color combinations to be assembled.
Astrojax has won a number of toy awards, has been taken into outer space by NASA for their "Toys in Space" program, and there are three Astrojax categories in the Guinness Book of World Records database.
1. Horizontal Orbit: One of the balls is held in the user's hand, the other two maintain horizontal orbits underneath. The two spinning balls counterbalance each other. This is maintained by small movements of the top ball to keep the orbits from slowing. The trick can be started by holding both the top and bottom balls (the top one directly below the bottom one), and spinning the middle ball. Then releasing the bottom ball creates a horizontal orbit.
2. Vertical Orbit: Similar to the horizontal orbit, but with the bottom and middle balls orbiting perpendicular to the ground. By tugging slightly on the ball in hand, the orbit continues however long the user desires. This is the starting movement for both tricks.
3. Butterfly: Starting with a vertical orbit the top hand is moved left and right quickly, in time with the rotation of the bottom ball. This causes the balls to move in a shape resembling a helix.
4. Switch: During a vertical orbit the top ball is released and the bottom ball is caught. The orbit now continues with their positions reversed. This trick can be performed repeatedly to add to the effect.
5. Venus: The bottom ball of a vertical orbit is pulled hard so that it travels over the users arm, followed by the middle ball. This trick can also be repeated for added effect.
6. Thriller or "Eskimo Yo-Yo": Hold the middle ball in one hand and start swinging the right ball around it. Then, throw the left ball around and around and watch them swing.
Astrojax, vortex, string bud, and Free-Dimensional Orbiter are trademarks of Active People.
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