Watch This Cloud Of Rusty Balls Shape-Shift Into An Airborne Labyrinth

Watch This Cloud Of Rusty Balls Shape-Shift Into An Airborne Labyrinth

The last time we checked in with Plebian Design and Hypersonic, the creative teams had installed an interactive map chandelier in Washington DC that glowed in time with different data sets. For their latest trick, they turned the lobby of a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company into a similarly mind-bending, shape-shifting display.

Breaking Wave is a “kinetic sculpture” made up of 804 rusty-looking balls suspended from the ceiling in the lobby at Biogen Idec. They’re not just hanging there, though. Keep your eyes on the spheres but don’t focus too hard — think about trying to decipher one of those Magic Eye prints — because they’re in constant motion, and what looks like an incomprehensible mass actually flows into a perfectly formed labyrinth and a flower inspired by a Fibonacci spiral. The thing is, you have to be standing in precisely the right place to see ’em.

Realistically, most of us won’t have the opportunity to check it out in person — if you do, ask the guard where to stand to reveal the hidden images — but the vid does a great job of showing what makes this so damn cool to watch. It starts out with a close-up on the spheres themselves; surprisingly, they’re actually wooden, with a coating of zinc, steel, and chemicals to get the old-timey effect. Once they’re in motion it’s mesmerising, but also a little: “Hey. Wait, what… How? Huh?” And then the camera scrolls up to reveal the motor that’s pulling the strings.

The machine that controls everything is almost as cool to look at as the finished work itself; 36 rollers sliding back and forth on linear tracks, operating shafts and drums that make the cables move.

The programming skill required to make these things coordinate in real-time, planned out on a computer before being translated to this oversized circle in the air, is awesome. [Wired Design]