Gearbox’s Smart Ball

Gearbox, one of the teams that I’m mentoring in this year’s TechStars Boulder program, is starting to blog about their product.  One of their taglines is “reinventing the ball” and while this potentially generates plenty of 14 year old boy jokes it’s pretty amazing stuff.

The ball, which consists of a custom circuit board inside a 3D printed spherical shell (which is pretty cool all by itself) with lots of fun things on it, is completely controlled by a smartphone (in this case, an Android).


The software is still evolving rapidly but if you know anything about trying to control a spherical shell remotely, watching this video will make you pretty excited.

They are planning to release at least one Android based game by demo day along with an open API to let anyone write applications that incorporate the ball.  I’m totally psyched to get my hands on one of these.

  • Capturing our twitter exchange here:

    @bfeld Quick thought: use the ball to provide walking directions to sight-impaired people @ places like airports. i.e. 'Take me to Gate 89'

    @jbminn great idea! a robotic seeing eye dog

    @bfeld Yep.

  • That is awesome!

  • I'm really impressed by the accuracy of the device being controlled by the phone. This has all sorts of applications: games, physical control of equipment from any mobile device, transportation units, etc.

    The technology is definitely there. Does the phone communicate directly or over WiFi? And is there any lagtime between touching the phone and the unit responding?

    • Bluetooth actually. We like that you can open an app and have it automatically connect directly to the device rather than having to reconfigure WiFi settings every time you want to connect. WiFi is good for a static device in your home but for something you take around with you (ie: the ball) Bluetooth is the better way to go.

      As for lag, none that you could humanly tell. Bluetooth is a lot slower than WiFi but as long as we're not trying to steam video (over a few fps) it's more than enough.


      -GearBox Inc

  • Hah, that's pretty spiffy!

  • loolll! dogs would be so bewildered by it. ^ . ^

    so would cats.

  • I was in the bunker this a.m. and saw them playing with it. It was fun to watch.

  • Very impressive. Back before I drifted away from control theory, I recall a talk by an Michigan State professor on the control of a rolling ball large enough to hold a human inside. It was a DARPA project I think, and the goal there was to create a robust battlefield surveillance vehicle. Its unique feature was the ability to stabilize to north-pole-up and poke out a periscope to snoop around.

    I think what you guys have might have that kind of military application in rough terrain, in autonomous-bot form. You could also conceive space applications (planetary rovers etc. operating in very hilly terrain)

    I am assuming there's a couple of proof-mass actuators on the board, right?

    • If by "proof-mass actuators" you mean "motors," then yes 🙂

  • I would love to see one of these in person. I think its amazing that people are making apps that affect things in the physical world.