Cheating At Bowling, The Hacker Way

Anyone who has ever gone to a bowling alley will know the preferred (but ineffective) technique to telepathically control a bowling ball. [Mark Rober] and [James Bruton] decided to change that and hacked a bowling ball that can be steered remotely (and discreetly), simply by leaning your body.

They started with a standard bowling ball, that was cut in half and hollowed out on a lathe. A beam sits on the centre line of the ball, mounted on a bearing in each half to allow the ball to spin around it. Steering done by shifting the centre of mass, by moving a steel pendulum that hangs below the beam side to side with heavy-duty servo. The servo is controlled with an Arduino, and an IMU to detects the balls orientation. Power is provided by and RC Lipo battery. The wireless controller is a sneaky little device that is taped to [Mark]’s back and covered with clothing, and steers the ball by detecting how far he leans with an IMU module. The brain is an Arduino Mini and an NRF24L01 provides the RF link.

While it’s not an easy build, it’s a fairly simple system electronically, with off the shelf electronics modules and perfboard. The genius is in the implementation and its entertainment value. The look on the kids faces when [Mark] “telepathically” controls the ball, after showing off the fact that he has zero natural ability, is absolutely priceless. [Mark Rober], a former NASA engineer, has made a name for himself with viral Youtube videos on cool projects like a glitter booby trap for package thieves and a liquid sand hot tub. [James Bruton], a former toy designer is known for his robotics prowess that he has put on display with OpenDog and functional Star Wars robots.

For us this hack is a perfect example of one that entertains and inspires, a powerful combination for young and old alike. Check out the awesome video after the break.

19 thoughts on “Cheating At Bowling, The Hacker Way

    1. Everything is very simple or ridiculously complex, given the appropriate context. Brings to mind that quote from Carl Sagan: If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

    2. A transistor is a magic rock we made very, very flat then put lightning inside of it.

      In the context of pure theory, it’s incredibly complex.

      In the context of hobbyist electronics, it is trivial.

  1. Reminds me of Thisbey’s directional wood, a cartoon by Rowland Emmett
    (Not sure about spelling – could be Fisbeky’s).
    Published in Emmett’s Domain.

    Can’t find an image of the cartoon online, but similar concept, using more of a
    Victorian era mechanism.

    1. To be fair, faking someone’s reaction to a project and faking the project itself are two very different things. Mark Rober’s projects definitely fall withing the scope of a Hackaday blog post.

      1. I agree, irrespective of the fake video reactions in that glitter bomb package video, these projects were actually designed, built and function as intended so I don’t get why people uselessly complain about what amounts to a hypothetical demo. Would they prefer if the thieves were real and knowing how crazy our legal system is they find a way to sue Mark for effectively baiting them with a live booby trap (albeit harmless) or worse yet the angry thieves returned to the house and try to get violent retribution? Would that make strangers who have no stake in this random project and who are doing nothing but bellyaching happy?

    1. Came for Kingpin, left satisfied. Still a hilarious movie.

      Still, this is a magnificent project, and I totally need this in my life now. Imagine showing up to play a game by yourself at thd local lanes with no explanations, and this. Play and walk out, just to see the reactions. It would be priceless.

  2. I. Want. One. Though, I’d still manage chucking the ball in the gutter somehow. (c:

    This is awesome. One thing I’m not clear about, I’m guessing the whole mechanism is on some sort of a gimbal inside the ball so that the pendulum is always pointing down?

    I love how his little nieces and nephews got so excited.

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