05
Dec
2012-12-05_15h19_05

Alright, yes. We've spent over a month getting upset because Christmas starts just way too dang early these days. It's December now, though. Is it finally okay to get in the holiday spirit a bit? Cool. Because these Spheros—robotic balls that can be remotely controlled by Android and carry an array of sensors and lights—are beautiful. The company behind the bots choreographed these 28 units to the tune of Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24, as performed by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

For the unaware, the song is a mashup of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen and Carol of the Bells, originally recorded by Savatage on the album Dead Winter Dead. The blend of history and modern music is gorgeous, echoed by the robotic dance of the Spheros. The whole array is controlled with four Android phones and accompanied by a single boom box. Despite being a high tech display that required plenty of man hours and is only possible due to the culmination of decades of consumer electronics advancement, ultimately what you're watching is colored balls rolling and twirling around in a dazzling display.

I want to make jokes. I really do. It'd be easy. This is just beautiful, though. Watch it. Twice. Then go listen to the entire Christmas Eve And Other Stories album from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This is just plain cool.

Source: Sphero

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • http://profiles.google.com/pbooker117 Phillip Booker

    I've already watched it twice....pretty sure Im gonna watch it again before 4:00pm

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      What time zone? And what date? Don't just leave us on a cliffhanger like that!

      • http://profiles.google.com/pbooker117 Phillip Booker

        Lol sorry It was 3:53pm Central Time Zone

  • linxchaos

    I want one, but I'd never, ever use it.

  • EH101

    That... really wasn't anywhere near as cool/coordinated as I expected it to be. Still mildly amusing, though.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      To be fair, these things aren't really built for super-precise movements. They're balls, freely roaming on a street corner. It would be insanely expensive to program autonomous robots that could roll with precision.

      That being said, I still think that the light show aspect, combined with the direction and patterns of the dances, if not the exact positions, are still pretty impressive.

  • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

    Someone needs to do this but set to "Big Balls" by AC/DC

  • xnifex

    I love that whole album!!!!

  • ElTimo

    I wish I could get a top-down view of this, rather than the disjointed mashup of camera angles they present in the video. I have no doubt that it looks cool, I just want to actually see as much.

    • http://twitter.com/2LadyDi Lady Di

      I share your exact sentiment as I think it would have been more visually appealing. It was great to view at any moving rate.

    • Mike DePhillips

      Hey, what's your email? I can send you a top-down view that we filmed in the office during testing.

      • ElTimo

        t dot j dot k dot robertson at gmail dot com. Thanks a ton, I didn't mean to come off as dickish, These things are so cool and I just wanted to see the whole dance.

        • Mike DePhillips

          It's okay, I didn't take it that way. Just sent you over the video!

      • http://www.facebook.com/spike913 Pat Colagreco

        Thanks for posting this version ... the YouTube one just shows single source ground level video ... Any chance you could also forward the top down video to me as well ? Spike 913 at yahoo dot com
        Thanks!

  • Mack

    Ding fries are done

    Ding fries are done

  • GraveUypo

    very very meh. looks like a bunch of cheap chinese children's toys

  • MeCampbell30

    I wonder how the phones are synced to the balls, each other, and the music. Very impressive program.

    • JG

      If this were an Apple blog, the answer would be obvious - by magic.... I'd say most likely the balls & phones synced via Bluetooth, maybe wifi. Possible the phones simply used their speakers to listen for the music, so they'd be synced together...

    • Mike DePhillips

      Hey, I work for Orbotix (makers of Sphero), and I programmed the dance. I wrote this following section for a blog post we are going to do in a little bit, but I thought I'd share it early here, because the Android community is awesome...

      Spheros are controlled via bluetooth. The bluetooth protocol is limited to 7 slaves for one master, so hence 4 Android phones for the 28 ball dance...

      The 28 Sphero dance program I designed is architected a lot like music editing software (i.e. GarageBand). Instead of a timeline of audio waveforms representing notes and rests, there is a hard-coded timeline of dance moves that represent color changes, driving, and spinning. A dance move is actually a Macro made with our SDK, that operates for exactly one measure of the song. In music editing software, there is continuous playback of the audio; however in the dance program, a sequence of commands (macro) is sent every measure. Therefore, as long as you plug in the correct beats per minute (tempo) of a song, this program will can be synced up with any tune.

      The song Sarajevo (Christmas Eve) by Trans-Siberian Orchestra is quite complex. For example, there is a ritardando (gradually decrease in tempo) at the end of the intro section, and there is a complete tempo change after that. This required a change of the beats per minute variable placed into the dance timeline on the 7th measure. Also, many of the guitar parts are based on triplets, which are when a beat is subdivided into three beats instead of four. These are easy to represent mathematically in code; however, recognizing them is very difficult or even impossible to someone without musical training.

      I think the most amazing feature is that each ball has a completely unique dance. Each phone knows exactly which 7 Spheros it is controlling. This is achieved by the "conductor" of the Android app. Each phone has a unique 7 check boxes checked from an array of 28 (7 by 4). Then, the balls are set up according to color (the rainbow grid at the beginning of the video) so they know their starting positions, and calibrated uniformly.

      • MeCampbell30

        Great job Mike! Definitely post the link when you get the blog post up.

  • Jeff B

    "For the unaware, the song is a mashup of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen and Carol of the Bells, originally recorded by Dead Winter Dead."

    I think you mean't to say originally recorded by Savatage on the album Dead Winter Night.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      Why yes. Yes I did. Updated. Thanks!

  • Wilda

    Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) was not originally recorded by Dead Winter Dead but by Savatage and on the album Dead Winter Dead. A handful of songs done by Savatage have appeared on TSO albums and concerts.

  • http://profiles.google.com/danielm.nc Daniel Marcus

    I wanted one until I saw the price. I wish they'd get those things a little more reasonable so I could buy one and... well, let's just say my co-workers would get some exercise.

  • christle

    Love it. They look like
    constellations... the balls - their positions - maybe rotated or flipped or maybe I am just delusional :). very cool... i will have to try myself. santa bring me one of the those balls.

  • Ryan O’Neill

    I freaked out when they started moving.

  • Dan

    Peace. Joy. Robots.

    Pretty much sums up my xmas list.

  • max

    What it really is...is a complete stupid waste of time

  • NYC INVEST

    −What it really is...is a complete stupid waste of time

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