Pong, for real

Over at EvilMadScientistLaboratories.com they’ve asked a question that many of us have never thought to ask. What exactly is Pong supposed to be? Instead of assuming it was ping pong like the rest of us, they decided to build a literal physical ¬†interpretation. They may have taken some liberty, using solenoids as the paddles, but the end effect is quite nice. Watching them play actually looks both challenging and fun. There’s a great writeup about the construction, so be sure to check out the project page.


  1. brian says:

    Would play a little more consistently if they added a very slight gradient to the play field; sloping from the center to each paddle.

    Very cool though.

  2. fenwick says:

    Brian stole me idea.

  3. Alpay Kasal says:

    oh my god, this is priceless (not just because it look like it was cheap to make either)… my whole office had a good laugh. I love the “gravity well” at the bottom right. this is actually pretty inspiring… i want to remake donkey kong on the side of my apartment building with a dude in a gorilla suit! now where to i get a whole mess of wooden barrels? great work.

  4. Musso says:

    Brian stole my idea too… lol. Great minds think alike. I love the concept though and it looks like it plays very well.

  5. Stephen says:


    Like all the best stuff it was already done in Europe. A better job too i think.

  6. Paul says:

    hah, me and my team considered doing this autonomously, but we decided blackjack would be a better choice for user interactivity

  7. Urza9814 says:


    No, what you linked to is a computerized pong game, it’s simply displayed through physical objects rather than a screen – the ball and paddles are attached to strings and moved by a computer. The ball is not free to move on it’s own as in this version. This is physical pong, that is computer pong with a unique display.

  8. xrazorwirex says:

    They should hook magnets or solenoids or something up to the barrier so the ball doesn’t stall.

    This is sweet.

  9. KayDat says:

    Agree with xrazorwirex, maybe something like pinball bumpers for the walls (not as extreme tho) to keep the ball moving. I disagree with the slope idea, the ball would still have to move back up the slope, and if it doesn’t have enough momentum, it could roll backwards.
    Maybe have an electro magnet on the solenoids for serving, so you can serve just like in-game–from the paddle. Magnet would disengage as you activate the solenoid.

  10. dave says:


    In this version the paddles look like they sense and then react to the ball via electronics. So the real physical pong you are talking about would probably be closer to air hockey.

    Regardless both projects are cool.

  11. Seth says:

    That’s really great. And it actually looks like a lot of fun.

  12. Raged says:

    Why not have the platform on a pivit point (in dead center) and raise/lower the corners to keep the ball’s speed constant. I’m sure you could do object tracking with some clever sensor and programming. Slightly raise and lower corners to keep the ball’s speed constant.

  13. RoboGuy says:

    I always thought Pong was supposed to be like air hockey – the “puck” moves at a constant rate, you use the paddles to bounce it back to the other side, and if the puck passes you by, you lose a point.

    Hmmm…mechanized air hockey…

  14. Hirudinea says:

    pong (third-person singular simple present pongs, present participle ponging, simple past and past participle ponged)

    (Australian, New Zealand, British, slang) To stink, to smell bad.

    And this dosn’t.

  15. ak77 says:


    mechanized air hockey?

  16. nubie says:

    Instead of solenoids you could have the board tilt toward the direction (or use magnets?) to accelerate the ball.

    Then use pinball bumpers for the paddles.

    This is simple and stunning for nearly the same result. Maybe just make the board gently crowned in the center and have a bubble level to keep it from getting stuck.

    Interesting take on a classic, I like it!

  17. JBu92 says:

    I think integrating some sort of AI for one-player operation would be quite a fun build (but a bitch-and-three-quarters to code)

  18. robb says:

    maybe they could put an arduino in there to control the gradient via using some ir detectors to detect when the ball looses momentum.

  19. shiftybill says:

    they should have the center of the field raised slighty so the ball doesnt get stuck in the middle

  20. Agent420 says:

    Props for the build quality!

    However, I agree that some kind of table gradient design needs to be incorporated.

  21. lenny says:

    I say… level it and leave it alone…leveling the table would make the ball stay on course reguardless of speed… the speed changes add challenge… for once I feel the simplicity makes it great

  22. Andar_b says:

    A miniature air hockey style would work better, since the ball is affected too much by gravity and friction, hence the ‘gravity well’ in the corner. Overall, though, it looks pretty cool, if silly.

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