Pyrosphere At Burning Man 2010

What’s thirty-seven feet tall, has ninety-one flamethrowers, and is controlled by an Arduino? Why it’s Pyrosphere, an interactive art piece at this year’s Burning Man. It lights up the night along to the music in a way that makes us want to set up a lawn-chair and watch the show. You can see for yourself in the video after the break, but you really should have thrown on the LED fur coat and gone to see it in person.


[Thanks Erin]

31 thoughts on “Pyrosphere At Burning Man 2010

  1. There was a large water-filled basin under the display, where flammable gas (propane?) bubbled up to create a flammable foam.

    The audience was invited to light the wisps of foam and watch them burn from one end to another.

    One thing I like about BM is that the art is interactive…

  2. I was upset I couldn’t make it… again. Last year at Afterburn in FL, somebody had a chain of 10 or so fire projectors rigged to a MIDI controller and programmed to act as a display for their sounds… and 2 years before that in NC at Transformus it was a directly linked set of MIDI drums firing bigger ones off. Gotta love the fire.

    Also, only one arduino? From most of the projects that get posted here I thought you’d need at least two of them for every flame and 100 more on the UI end just to control it…

  3. Reminds me of Arcadia Pyrotechnics; saw them at Glade ’09 (in the UK) and they had some pretty impressive pyrotechnics set-ups.

    This sphere thing is genius though, looks amazing. A bet many a mash-head spent their time staring at that confusedly.

  4. I see the arduino bashing coming.

    Honestly though – this is a great use for one. This is a one-off thing where fast and simple beats a huge customized engineering effort. Plus I’m sure it’s easy to hide the arduino. Just put it somewhere away from the fire and nobody will bother looking in that direction. :)

  5. If one arduino is running this, then damn near everyone with an arduino project submission ought to be ashamed of themselves. /confusion_off

    Can I get a smaller version in my living room? lol

  6. We played with a flammable foam in Jr. High science class. The teacher showed us soap bubbles made with various flammable gases, that was cool.

    If I recall correctly, methane from the taps for the Bunsen burners made an interesting ‘sticky’ flame effect, you could light the foam on fire while on your hands and it would wrap around them for a moment. Hydrogen gas from a zinc/hydrochloric acid reaction was more rapid burning, more like a quick flash.

    He also did two balloons, one with straight hydrogen, one with a 2/1 ratio of hydrogen to oxygen. The same volume total. The hydrogen balloon made a nice bang, but the hydrogen/oxygen balloon was much louder and had a shockwave the whole class felt.

    He also had a tiny fragment of sodium metal end up in the trash can, and almost burned down the science building when it got wet. Oops :p

  7. @Erik

    Ok. I’ll buy that. But you have to admit, the size ratio of this and most arduino projects on here are just sad( size of arduino to overall project size).


    Sounds like my science teacher. He blew up our lab when he let some chlorine and hydrogen gas canisters open but didn’t closed them back all the way. Needless to say, once sunrise hit, we had no lab. lol

  8. @ m4cgyv34
    I’m the creator/builder of the Pyrosphere. Why hate on the arduino? Let me tell you why I think the arduino is an amazing device that will change the world:
    A year and a half ago, I had zero electronics/circuitry knowledge. I didnt know the difference between a diode and a transistor! I had basically no code writing experience, with the exception of a little html I had messed around with. I bought an arduino and the “getting started with arduino” book. Just over a year later, I finished the Pyrosphere, with a little help from my friends. The point is the arduino was designed to give the laymen an easy way create microcontroller based electronics. I am the perfect example. I imagine ten years from now, every elementary school kid will know how to use a microcontroller.

  9. @Erin B
    Programming micro controllers isn’t that hard. You could have just as easily bought an intro to PIC basic etc…

    If you can program an arduino thats all you can do. If you can write some simple C code from tutorials .you can do much more ARM PIC AVR… you name it.

    I take offense that you think we should be dumbing down our future children’s education.

    That said fire is awesome ^.^ and your project is quite cool regardless of how you chose to build it.

    1. @cb88, Erin B, and M4c,
      I see this often here. If the goal is FIRE SHOOTING SPHERE, maybe the quickest easiest microcontroller really is the best solution. If the goal was become a top notch microcontroller wizard with a strong foundation and understanding of exactly what is going on, maybe he should have done something more complicated. I guess it all depends on how high priority that piece of knowledge is to the future of the project and his future as a tinkerer.

      I’m willing to bet if someone sold a flame ball-triggerer, preconfigured to his specific needs at a comparable price, he would have done that and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  10. @Erin B: Pay no mind to M4CGYV3R, all he ever does is troll here and tell people they aren’t doing a real hack unless they build all of their logic gates from sand and urine heated with a magnifying glass.

    For what it’s worth, your pyrosphere is beautiful, and makes me feel inadequate.

  11. @ caleb Kraft and cb88

    What I’m trying to say (and you are missing) is the arduino, or any other ultra simple microcontroller, is easy enough that ANYBODY can learn to use it quite quickly. I’m not saying you should work at a level below your expertise, but for someone like me who has an idea, but doesn’t know C, it makes it possible to use a microcontroller. Imagine if everyone could make their own custom electronics easily. A lot more people will start doing it if they can get some basic results easily, and the more people who start using and creating with microcontrollers and electronics in general, the faster innovation will occur.

    @ caleb
    “I’m willing to bet if someone sold a flame ball-triggerer, preconfigured to his specific needs at a comparable price, he would have done that and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
    Sorry, you lose the bet. I only really made the pyrosphere, because i felt like it was a series of things that had never been done before:
    -91 solenoids off an arduino
    -3d Persistance of vision flame effects
    -more flame throwers than on any other single installation at burning man

    plus I like the idea of a massive behemoth ball of fire being controlled by little begginer’s arduino.

  12. Bash away. Arduinos are tools. It’s that whole “When you have a hammer everything looks like a nail” deal that makes people use them for everything. What we needed do was to control a *lot* of flame throwers reliably in short order. In the end we did it with some boards I designed/put together that utilized shift registers and when it came down to it, that entire ball was controlled with 3 wires. Do you realize how many more flamethrowers we could have had because of that?! We UNDER UTILIZED the hardware we had. For a $26 piece of silicon and plastic, I think it was a good fit for the job.

  13. @Volfram

    Shift registers are your friend when you need more outputs than an arduino has.
    That’s the chip we ended up using, though not after some setbacks with other chips… In any case there is a built in function called shiftOut() that is used with it. I used it like:

    void sendData(){
    digitalWrite(LATCH_PIN, LOW);
    for(int i = 0; i < TOTAL_REGISTERS; i++){
    shiftOut(DATA_PIN, CLOCK_PIN, MSBFIRST, frameBuffer.frameChunk[i]);
    digitalWrite(LATCH_PIN, HIGH);

    The DATA_PIN and CLOCK_PIN I defined, MSBFIRST means that I'm giving it the most significant byte first and framebBuffer.frameChunk[i] is the byte I'm handing to it. For each chip you have you need to send one byte so that's what the for loop is for. Putting the LATCH_PIN low then high is what tells the chips to listen for incoming bytes. There's your black magic ;)

  14. our prototype was multiplexed, but unfortunately you cant really multiplex flamethrowers, so we used
    shift registers, which communicate over serial with the arduino. The cool thing about shift registers is that you can daisy-chain them almost endlessly!

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