December 12, 2018

Nimrod Back Creates A New Spin on the Ancient Top

If a one-day supply of oil that ends up burning for eight days is a supernatural occurrence that’s been celebrated for over 2,000 years, then a top that can spin continuously for forty hours is a veritable modern-day Hanukkah miracle. 

Nimrod Back is the miracle-maker behind Limbo, a solid-metal spinning top with a gyroscope hidden inside that allows it to spin in perpetuity — or at least until the rechargeable battery runs out. 

Back, 34, got the idea from watching the movie “Inception,” where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character deduces whether he’s awake or dreaming according to whether the spinning top topples over. Back said his customer base falls into three categories: The first category is made up of people who are into what Back calls “executive toys” — C-level suits fidgeting with a spinner during board meetings, for whom the Limbo is a prestige item (it costs around $60). “We develop toys for children with salaries,” he explained.

The second category is comprised of physics aficionados. “The Limbo represents a very cool principle called angular momentum,” Back said, referring to the rotary inertia of an object in motion around an axis, like our planet. 

The third category includes “Inception” fans. Of the thousands of comments Limbo has attracted from several viral videos, the one that is most often repeated is along the lines of, “Oh s—, we’re still in a dream,” Back said.

An industrial engineer living in Tel Aviv, Back always liked making things. When he was 12 and his skateboard was confiscated, he unscrewed the back of his wooden school chair and after sanding, filing and securing wheels to it had a new skateboard small enough to hide in his backpack. 

“It’s a weird object that stands on its tip and turns. It’s already kind of magic, a tiny miracle.” — Nimrod Back

His penchant for making things plus a love of fantasy made inventing magical items, as he calls them, an obvious career move. “I call them magical items and not magic tricks because you don’t need to be a magician to use them,” he said. 

He also invented Pressy, a tiny, customizable button that fits in a mobile phone’s headphone jack to start apps with a single press; and Boogie Dice, which roll when you clap your hands or snap your fingers. But only Limbo has earned his company, Fearless Toys, over $1 million, $800,000 of which came from a crowd-funding campaign and more than $300,000 in sales. 

Part of Limbo’s appeal, Back said, is something that even regular spinning tops have. “It’s a weird object that stands on its tip and turns. It’s already kind of magic, a tiny miracle,” he said.

He posited that watching a spinning top has a calming, hypnotizing effect because a person’s breathing ends up synchronizing with the rotations in much the same way it does when a person watches a candle burn. In June, Limbo beat the existing Guinness World Record for spinning with a 27-hour spin. 

Beyond its record-breaking capabilities, Limbo is “pretty good for hustling,” Back said. He explained that at restaurants he will wait for the waiter to approach before spinning the Limbo on the table. Invariably, the server will wait patiently for it to fall before taking Back’s order. At that point Back will smile wryly and say, “Let’s bet that I’ll finish my dinner before it falls.”

While it was not designed as a dreidel, Back said he hopes that by next year he will market a Limbo version for Hanukkah.