Maker Faire 2008: SWARM

SWARM is a large scale kinetic art project. The electrically powered spheres move by shifting the batteries around the center axle. By tilting the central ring, th orb can steer as well. The SWARM members are currently radio controlled, but the plan is for them to eventually receive commands from a mother node. More information about the orbs’ design is available on the project wiki. A video of the wobbly buggers in motion is embedded after the break.


  1. Abbott says:

    holy crap, its not a black and white photo!!

  2. Binome says:

    Totally reminds me of this xkcd

  3. Drew says:

    When I saw these things rolling around on the grass at the Makers Faire, the only thing I could think about was how to make them into lawn mowers. You know, kind of like the old push powered reel mowers. I guess you could sit on your porch and use the remote to control it. What can I say, I’m a little strange.

  4. Who is number 1?
    You are number 6!
    I am not a number, I am a free man!

    (Yeah, the remind me of the white capture bubbles from The Prisoner)

  5. Eliot says:
  6. max says:

    why is hackaday still in beta

  7. Apothus says:

    I have pondered that myself. Either its a Joke, everything covered is pretty much beta. Or it will somehow be improved and will be hosted inside large rolling spheres in the future!

  8. jarrod says:

    heh, I actually made something very similar to these back in year 10 high school.
    it was inside a hamster ball and it worked in exactly the same way, with batteries rotating around an axis, and a servo to make the batteries sway to steer it.

    i think NASA was looking at using inflatable ball robots to explore mars, or maybe it was an independent company i can’t remember

  9. Keithb says:

    For some reason these remind me of a reel style mower, only spherical instead of cylindrical, scary as hell if the edges were sharpened.

  10. Dosbomber says:

    I’m not dealing with “swarm” networked multi-bot technology, but I built a similar sphere-bot some months ago, that has the same method of locomotion. It turns not just the batteries but the whole system (motors, batteries, custom control boards) around a central axis, and leans one way or the other while moving to turn (it just leans if it isn’t moving).

    I thought I had a fairly original idea when I thought of it on my own, now I see everyone’s doing this. :/

  11. Tuck says:

    I was there! Those things were scary with their noises!

  12. starphire says:

    These orbs are best appreciated at night, as seen by thousands at Burning Man last year. RGB LEDs inside the orb project colored light patterns through the meshlike frame onto the ground as they roll along.

  13. hannes says:
  14. jarrod says:

    >I thought I had a fairly original idea
    >when I thought of it on my own, now I
    >see everyone’s doing this. :/

    lol thats exactly what i thought when i invented it, and then found out that it had already been done.

  15. kc! says:

    I am SOOOO bummed I missed the swarmbots! Next time, I guess… Do they run autonomously? Not really sure…. I did however get some good video like yours for LEGENDmag TV:

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