Written by: Taleeb Elewonibi
Fidget spinners and their evolutionary counterpart, fidget cubes have invaded the mainstream toy market in 2017. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock these past few months (and seriously who would blame you) you have seen them somewhere. They’re at schools causing a stir at break time. They’re at your home in your kids bedroom, delaying them from coming down for dinner. They may even be at your workplace in the cubicle next door, but what are these things exactly? Where did they come from, and why are they here? Chances are you have not asked yourself these questions. Fear not, for I have, and I am here to provide you the answers.
Basically a fidget spinner is a toy that sits like a propeller on a person’s finger, with blades that spin continuously around a bearing when pushed. It can be used to induce stress relief or help with concentration, but primarily, it is used as a hand toy, therapeutically aiding the passage of time during those mundane moments of idleness. Depending on your age, personal taste and skill level, watching the resulting spinning motion is either thoroughly addictive and mesmerizing, or perhaps mildly irritating.
As with everything trending these days, its origin story is not so straightforward. Several publications have credited a Catherine Hettinger as the inventor of the fidget spinner. She kind of isn’t though. She did file for a patent for a similar “spinning toy’’ device in 1993 but the size and mechanics of that particular device differ from the fidget spinners on the market today, this along with her allowing the patent to lapse in 2005, after she could not find a commercial partner, mean she admittedly cannot hold the title of ‘’inventor’’. In an interview appearing on May 4, 2017 on NPR, a Scott McCoskery also described how he created a metal based spinning device in 2014 to cope with his own fidgeting in IT meetings and long conference calls. In response to numerous requests from the public, he started marketing the device he now calls the ‘’Torqbar’’ on the internet. You see where I’m going with this, these things come in all shapes and sizes,and similar devices have been out since the early nineties originating from various sources, indicating that instead of one ‘inventor’ the device has been borne, more out of a slow collective evolution, with an extreme explosion in popularity happening right now in 2017.
Search data tells us that Fidget sinners have been one of the most sought after things on the internet in recent months, something analysts had seen coming late last year. On December 23, 2016, James Plafke of Forbes published an article describing fidget spinners as the “must-have office toy for 2017.” and by late March 2017, users on popular social media sites such as facebook and Reddit had begun uploading videos of themselves performing tricks with their own customized fidget spinners.
Internet Search data depicting the increasing popularity of fidget toys in 2017
The toy’s popularity continued to rise during April 2017, with Google searches for “fidget spinner” spiking that month, according to Money magazine. By May 4, variations of the , spinner occupied every spot on Amazon’s top 20 best seller list for toys. At this time another fidget toy known as the Fidget cube had also become popular. The Fidget Cube, a small handheld cube shaped device designed by Antsy Labs, has sensory tools on all sides: a rocker switch, gears, a rolling ball, a small joystick, a spinning disc, a “rubbing stone”, and 5 buttons. Like its spinning counterpart the cube is intended to provide an easy way to occupy one’s hands and other senses when needed, in order to promote self-soothing
Various types of Fidget Cubes (Antsy Labs)
It’s hard to say where things will go from here but children and adults have certainly taken strongly to use of these fidget toys. Personally, I can see the benefit of always keeping one fidget spinner on my worktable, next to my laptop, if only as a tool to ward off writer’s block. Its also nice to just have a little toy to play with during work sometimes. On a more serious note, though conclusive studies have not been carried out, there are widespread reports of people with ADHD touting the increased focus and concentration obtained by routine fidget toy use. Time will tell whether there are any true merits to such reports. The whole fidget toy market could just be another passing fad that will go with 2017 as it came, or it could evolve into something else entirely as we move forward.