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What music brings to your ears, Sisyphus brings to your eyes. Kinetic art, technology and design merged in stunning meditative beauty.
What music brings to your ears, Sisyphus brings to your eyes. Kinetic art, technology and design merged in stunning meditative beauty.
What music brings to your ears, Sisyphus brings to your eyes. Kinetic art, technology and design merged in stunning meditative beauty.
1,992 backers pledged $1,924,018 to help bring this project to life.

About

Sisyphus – The Kinetic Art Table project video thumbnail
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Sisyphus – The Kinetic Art Table

$1,924,018

1,992

For more information please visit: sisyphus-industries.com

What is Sisyphus?

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was condemned to roll a boulder up a mountain for all eternity. In my art, Sisyphus is a kinetic sculpture that rolls a ball through sand, forever creating and erasing beautiful patterns. Watching Sisyphus evokes a meditative feeling.  

I have been creating Sisyphus sculptures for nearly 20 years, and have 3-meter diameter permanent installations in Switzerland, Germany and Australia. Over time I have come to view Sisyphus as more than a kinetic art piece: it is an instrument. As a musical instrument plays songs, Sisyphus plays paths. My goal with this Kickstarter is to get Sisyphus into people's homes for them to enjoy as both furniture and art, but also, to inspire a community of composers to write "music" for it.

Three sizes of tables now available, prices are for Kickstarter campaign only
Three sizes of tables now available, prices are for Kickstarter campaign only

End Table:  Sisyphus kinetic sculpture within 2 foot diameter x 22" tall, tempered glass-topped metal table (exact size may vary). Stepper motor driven Sisbot mechanism. Metal furniture with wood veneer options for top and sides – birch/maple, cherry, walnut, black. Some assembly required. 

end table with walnut veneer
end table with walnut veneer

3 foot coffee table: Sisyphus kinetic sculpture within 3 foot diameter x 18" tall, tempered glass-topped metal table (exact size may vary). Stepper motor driven Sisbot mechanism. Metal furniture with wood veneer options for top and sides – birch/maple, cherry, walnut, black. Some assembly required. 

coffee table with cherry veneer
coffee table with cherry veneer

Hardwood 4' coffee table: Sisyphus kinetic sculpture within 4 foot diameter x 18" tall, tempered glass-topped all wood table. Brushless servo driven Sisbot mechanism. ApplePly base and choice of hardwood furniture – maple, walnut, padauk – all CNC machined and hand finished.  All components including servo motors made in the U.S. except circuit boards. 

Shipping is included in the continental US.  

(3' hardwood version added to rewards in response to requests)

hardwood coffee table with padauk furniture
hardwood coffee table with padauk furniture

 

hardwood coffee table showing appleply base
hardwood coffee table showing appleply base

 

hardwood coffee table
hardwood coffee table

 Click here for press materials

The journey:

My journey as an artist began, appropriately enough, with an egg (Eggbot). 25 years ago I quit my job as a doctor to follow my passion: using computer-controlled machines to create art. I discovered that industrial giants like 3M and Honeywell sold their used automation equipment cheaply on the local surplus market, allowing me access to uber-expensive components at pennies on the dollar. Where the companies had seen tools for mass producing floppy disks and sticky notes, I saw a new art medium. In 1995, I registered my website: "The Art of Motion Control." My friends and family thought I was crazy (and I was) but my wife Beverly supported me, and I went on to create widely varied pieces involving metal, flying silk ribbons, and even bubbles. But of all works I made, Sisyphus stood out – it was my first CNC machine to break out of the studio/shop.  No longer tasked with cutting materials to be used in making sculpture, it was the sculpture itself. It was also unique in another way – I wanted to live with it in my home.  I've spent the last three years perfecting a home version that is beautiful, user-friendly, and that is near-silent and will run for years.

I owe a great deal to the Maker Movement for helping along the way. I was building DIY CNC machines well before Make Magazine first published in 2005, but it was my time at a new makerspace in Minneapolis six years ago that made it possible to push further than I could ever have gone on my own. It was there that I first got to use truly reliable CNC tools, spending my time making instead of fixing. It was there that I learned to value the cross-pollination of ideas that happens in makerspaces. And it was there that I met Micah Roth– a tall, lanky, quiet dude, with a wry smile – who could make, fix, and figure out just about anything he set his mind to. After only one year, that space folded. Six members, including Micah and myself, set off and started our own – Nordeast Makers. Now three years old, NEM is thriving, and will serve as the center of production for Sisyphus. And Micah, who keeps NEM humming, has joined my wife and me on the Sisyphus project team.

Micah, at Nordeast Makers
Micah, at Nordeast Makers

How does it work? (simple version)

What you see is a fully functional table with a thin layer of sand under its glass top. Under the table is a two-motor robot (the "Sisbot") that moves a magnet which pulls a steel ball through the sand. The motors are controlled by a small Raspberry Pi computer which plays a set of path files, much like a music player plays an mp3 file. Sisyphus has no on/off switch; you simply plug it in and it automatically calibrates itself, loads a default playlist of paths, and begins playing. You can control playback – choosing favorite tracks or playlists – speed of play, and table-lighting from a mobile app or by using any browser to connect to Sisyphus with WiFi.

the Sisbot demo unit
the Sisbot demo unit

How it works (Technical Details)  

Hardware overview - All Sisbots are two axis, polar plotters. The smaller versions (for sand fields < 40" diameter) are stepper-actuated, using Trinamic drivers. Brushless servomotors / drives are used for larger versions. High-level control is done by using code written in NodeJS, running on a Raspberry Pi 3. This includes both high-level motion control routines, file handling, and serving a two-way WiFi interface. Low-level motion control is handled by the SisBotBoard (SBB), designed by embedded systems engineer Brian Schmalz (designer of the EiBotBoard (EBB) for Eggbot). Point-to-point commands are streamed from the Pi to the SBB over serial USB, and the SBB does the low-level timed generation of step / direction signals that govern the motors. Software dimmable white LED lighting surrounds the sandfield. Power is provided by a 12VDC universal switching supply for both the LED's and Sisbot. A single AC power cord plugs into a standard outlet (total power consumption <100W for smaller tables, <200W for 4-foot table).

Software overview - At the lowest level, the SBB runs a custom version of the EBB firmware, and conforms to the EBB command syntax. NodeJS code on the RPi will be freely upgradable as it evolves. Routines for converting standard vector file formats (AI and DXF) will be freely downloadable. Algorithmic tools for composing paths are under development. 

The Sisyphus path-file format consists of a text file containing an ordered list of 2-axis vertices, with each line containing the polar coordinates of a point on the unit circle. Paths saved in this format will play on any size Sisyphus (they are scaled appropriately by the software).  Designs can be easily translated from traditional Cartesian x-y coordinates.

 

Interview of me talking about my work with Cool Hunting, in 2007:  

 

 

Constructing Sisyphus hardwood furniture at Nordeast Makers:

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 Gluing up a 32-sided padauk hoop

Machining the padauk hoop
Machining the padauk hoop

 

Gluing up the 4' base
Gluing up the 4' base

 

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 machining the base

-------------------

Giant THANK YOU's to:

Geoff George and Martin Alexander at R62pictures.com for our video,

Dana Woodman and Alex Wayne at BuiltByBig.com for our app,

Brian Schmalz at Schmalzhaus.com for our circuit board and his embedded guruhood,

Mike Lindemuth - video footage,

Jeff Lieberman, for last-minute help,

Our two kids, Casey Trombley-Shapiro Jonas, and Ben Trombley-Shapiro, for their support and major editing!

And lastly, to Micah for his friendship and hard work, and Bev, without whom I'd be lost.

 See Bruce's other artwork at http://www.taomc.com/

 

 

Recently designed custom path
Recently designed custom path

 

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 Rapid erase path (time to complete ~ 6 minutes, 3' table)

Risks and challenges

My experience building and installing large permanent Sisyphus istallations in museums around the world has taught me much about deadlines, budgets, working with others and above all, Murphy's law. The main risks are in underestimating costs and time to deliver a large number of high-quality pieces. The major factor here is quantity, which is hard to predict. We are trying to produce everything, except the electronics, in America. Our pricing reflects this, as we feel this is the best way to ensure our work is of the highest quality and on schedule.

Beyond the challenges related to fabricating and delivery, lie those related to interface and composition software. At present, we have a functioning iOS app and browser-based interface capable of controlling playback and lighting. If successful in reaching our goal, we will create an Android app and continue to improve the interface. At present, I am the only composer for Sisyphus paths, using a variety of vector-based programs with algorithmic approaches to create patterns. These are then converted by a simple utility to the file format for Sisyphus to play. This utility will allow others using vector software to convert their continuous line drawings from common vector formats, such as AI and DXF.

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    Sisyphus end table - Early Bird 1

    Sisyphus kinetic sculpture within 2 foot diameter x 22" tall, tempered glass-topped metal table (exact size may vary).
    Wood veneer options: birch/maple, walnut, black. Some assembly required.
    Please note that sales tax is due for Minnesota orders.
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    Sisyphus kinetic sculpture within 2 foot diameter x 22" tall, tempered glass-topped metal table (exact size may vary).
    Wood veneer options: birch/maple, walnut, black. Some assembly required.
    Please note: backers are responsible for paying any custom fees/duties/taxes.

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    Sisyphus end table - Early Bird 2

    Sisyphus kinetic sculpture within 2 foot diameter x 22" tall, tempered glass-topped metal table (exact size may vary).
    Wood veneer options: birch/maple, walnut, black. Some assembly required.
    Please note that sales tax is due for Minnesota orders.
    Local (MInneapolis) pick up is an option.

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    Sisyphus end table

    Sisyphus kinetic sculpture within 2 foot diameter x 22" tall, tempered glass-topped metal table (exact size may vary).
    Wood veneer options: birch/maple, walnut, black. Some assembly required.
    Please note that sales tax is due for Minnesota orders.
    Local (MInneapolis) pick up is an option - shipping charges will be credited toward sales tax.
    Please note: backers are responsible for paying any customs/duties/taxes.

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    Sisyphus end table

    Sisyphus kinetic sculpture within 2 foot diameter x 22" tall, tempered glass-topped metal table (exact size may vary).
    Wood veneer options: birch/maple, walnut, black. Some assembly required.
    Please note that sales tax is due for Minnesota orders.
    Local (MInneapolis) pick up is an option - shipping charges will be credited toward sales tax.
    Please note: backers are responsible for paying any customs/duties/taxes.

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    Sisyphus 3' coffee table - Early Bird 1

    Sisyphus kinetic sculpture within 36" diameter x 18" tall, tempered glass-topped metal table.
    Wood veneer options: birch/maple, walnut, black. Some assembly required.
    Please note that sales tax is due for Minnesota orders.
    Local (MInneapolis) pick up is an option.

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    Sisyphus kinetic sculpture within 36" diameter x 18" tall, tempered glass-topped metal table.
    Wood veneer options: birch/maple, walnut, black. Some assembly required.
    Please note: backers are responsible for paying any custom fees/duties/taxes.

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    Sisyphus 3' coffee table - Early Bird 2

    Sisyphus kinetic sculpture within 36" diameter x 18" tall, tempered glass-topped metal table.
    Wood veneer options: birch/maple, walnut, black. Some assembly required.
    Please note that sales tax is due for Minnesota orders.
    Local (MInneapolis) pick up is an option.

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    Sisyphus 3 foot coffee table

    Sisyphus kinetic sculpture within 36" diameter x 18" tall, tempered glass-topped metal table.
    Wood veneer options: birch/maple, walnut, black. Some assembly required.
    Please note that sales tax is due for Minnesota orders.
    Local (MInneapolis) pick up is an option - shipping charges will be credited toward sales tax.
    Please note: backers are responsible for paying customs/duties/taxes.

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    Sisyphus 3 foot coffee table

    Sisyphus kinetic sculpture within 36" diameter x 18" tall, tempered glass-topped metal table.
    Wood veneer options: birch/maple, walnut, black. Some assembly required.
    Please note that sales tax is due for Minnesota orders.
    Local (MInneapolis) pick up is an option - shipping charges will be credited toward sales tax.
    Please note: backers are responsible for paying customs/duties/taxes.

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    Sisyphus x2 (3ft coffee and end tables)

    2 Sisyphus kinetic sculptures: one within 36" diameter x 18" tall, tempered glass-topped metal table and one within 2 foot diameter x 22" tall, tempered glass-topped metal table (exact size may vary).
    Wood veneer options: birch/maple, walnut, black. Some assembly required.
    Please note that sales tax is due for Minnesota orders.
    Local (MInneapolis) pick up is an option - shipping charges will be credited toward sales tax.

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    3 foot coffee and 2 foot end table combo

    2 Sisyphus kinetic sculptures: one within 36" diameter x 18" tall, tempered glass-topped metal table and one within 2 foot diameter x 22" tall, tempered glass-topped metal table (exact size may vary).
    Wood veneer options: birch/maple, walnut, black. Some assembly required.
    Please note that sales tax is due for Minnesota orders.
    Local (MInneapolis) pick up is an option - shipping charges will be credited toward sales tax.

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    Sisyphus x2 (3ft coffee and end tables)

    2 Sisyphus kinetic sculptures: one within 36" diameter x 18" tall, tempered glass-topped metal table and one within 2 foot diameter x 22" tall, tempered glass-topped metal table (exact size may vary).
    Wood veneer options: birch/maple, walnut, black. Some assembly required.
    Please note that sales tax is due for Minnesota orders.
    Local (MInneapolis) pick up is an option - shipping charges will be credited toward sales tax.

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    Sisyphus hardwood 3' coffee table

    Sisyphus kinetic sculpture (brushless servo driven) within ~36" diameter x 18" tall, tempered glass-topped custom crafted hardwood table.
    Wood options - maple, walnut, padauk.
    All components including servo motors made in USA except circuit boards.

    Shipping in the continental USA is included. Please contact us for shipping to Alaska or Hawaii.

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    Sisyphus hardwood 3' coffee table

    Sisyphus kinetic sculpture (brushless servo driven) within ~36" diameter x 18" tall, tempered glass-topped custom crafted hardwood table.
    Wood options - maple, walnut, padauk.
    All components including servo motors made in USA except circuit boards.

    Shipping in the continental USA is included. Please contact us for shipping to Alaska or Hawaii.

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    Sisyphus hardwood 4' coffee table

    Sisyphus kinetic sculpture (brushless servo driven) within 48" diameter x 18" tall, tempered glass-topped custom crafted hardwood table.
    Wood options - maple, walnut, padauk.
    All components including servo motors made in USA except circuit boards.

    Shipping in the continental USA is included. Please contact us for shipping to Alaska or Hawaii.

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    Ships to Only United States
    Reward no longer available 15 backers
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  20. Select this reward

    Pledge $7,500 or more About $7,500

    Sisyphus hardwood 4' coffee table

    Sisyphus kinetic sculpture (brushless servo driven) within 48" diameter x 18" tall, tempered glass-topped custom crafted hardwood table.
    Wood options - maple, walnut, padauk.
    All components including servo motors made in USA except circuit boards.

    Shipping in the continental USA is included. Please contact us for shipping to Alaska or Hawaii.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    10 backers
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Funding period

- (30 days)