Musical Cyborg Juggling Apparatus

6 1/2 hours in the AHA! Shop and a chocolate-peanut-butter sandwich brought us to this. I’d been stalled out on the method for weeks, and then the clouds suddenly broke, early on April Fool’s Day. 

So what is this? It is a harness that turns the action of juggling into buzzing noises, flashing LEDs, and arcing electricity. Each palm has two separate copper wires exposed, one of which is hooked up to the positive terminal of a battery, while the other connects to a motor (or bank of LEDs, or people-shocking device). When the wires are bridged by a tinfoil-covered juggling ball, the circuit is closed and the motor (people-shocker, eye-blinder, etc.) runs. Thus, the juggling becomes a method of switching things on and off… like so:


And this is what it actually looks like… somewhat less elegant, perhaps. At the top left, we have the left glove with a conductive ball bridging its contacts; below that, a taped-up 12V battery pack (the brown/blue block); then, the box itself. Most of the apparatus is externally mounted. Magnets glued near the four central motors anchor metal bolts, which are struck by the spinning zip ties to create a variety of buzzing sounds (sample mp3!). From the bottom left emerge wires from a shocker, which discharges a decent amount of voltage (I forget how much) across the blue and white wires’ stripped ends. It will arc up to about 1cm through the air, which looks pretty sweet, and also give you a pretty hefty shock. (Me holding one contact + Amanda holding the other + proximity -> lightning hands!) 

Not pictured: burned-out LED bank… I am not yet wise in the science of adding resistors. But a new, more awesome version is on the way.

The box belts to my waist, and…


suede straps anchor the wires to my arms.

Prototype glove… wire contacts wrapped around a scrap anchor on the inside. Jabby.

Suede glove #1 in production!

Maille rings and thread hold the wires in place. Juggling gloves: now with 50% less pain!

Balls: socks + washers (for heft) + duct tape (for cushioning and adhesive) + tinfoil.

So, there is currently a glove for each hand, plus these:
Finger-contacts! These copper rings are a pain, both figuratively (the donning/doffing process is tedious) and literally (they have a tendency to channel voltage straight through my fingers, resulting in anguish and blisters). But they look… kinda awesome. 

I brought this machine to exhibit (with AHA!) at TEDxUofM, which was pretty stupendous. My favorite presenters were John Holland, Udae Sandhu (who voiced basically my current philosophy of happiness), Jacob Mendel’s “Zlatá Rybka” video, Mason Proper (!!), Matt Shlian, and Alex Wand (with his awesome marimba-bowing musics). Yesssssss.

AHA! and the Apparatus will also be making an appearance at several future DIY/tech/Maker events, including the Hands-On Museum’s Tech Event (May 22), the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire (June 5), and hopefully the Detroit Maker Faire (July 31 – August 1). Actually, this post is part of my application for Detroit… I anticipate all three being fantastic.


  • By Aaron, May 23, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

    Hey! I just stumbled across this thing. For the sake of efficiency, please imagine that I've written "OMFG! AWESOME OVERLOAAAAAAAD!" at the bottom of every single post. :D

  • By bg, June 6, 2010 @ 7:20 pm

    Hi alexglow,
    JEY and I saw you juggle at the a2 mini maker faire. I liked your contraption – very clever. It added pizzazz to your juggling demonstration.

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