Sisyphus is basically a kinetic art coffee table that uses a marble that automatically rolls to draw intricate designs on a layer of sand on top of the table. Just as music uses instruments and gadgets to be played, a sculpture needing carving tools, and a painting needing paints, brushes, and a canvas, Sisyphus as a kinetic art table uses CNC machines underneath the table that uses magnets to trace beautiful patterns in thin layers of sand using a metal ball. The name of the project being an appropriate title since the metal ball seems to be forever moving through the table’s sand creating patterns, similar to the Greek myth Sisyphus. In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was condemned to roll a boulder up a mountain forever. When the project’s creator, Bruce Shapiro, came out with the concept, he envisioned a ball rolling endlessly creating kinetic sculptures on the sand, seemingly forever creating and erasing meditative patterns.
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Bruce Shapiro has been actually producing Sisyphus-like sculptures for almost 20 years. Some of his more permanent works can be found in Australia, Germany, and Switzerland. Shapiro saw that instead of just displaying his works for the general public, he wanted his works to be found in individual homes. On Kickstarter, he has been pledged and given enough crowd funding to create at least three different models: an End Table, a three-foot Metal Coffee Table, and a four-foot Hardwood Coffee Table. Shapiro’s journey into the arts began when he decided to quit his being a doctor to pursue his passion for computer-controlled machines that create art. He and his wife Beverly discovered that industrial manufacturers like Honeywell and 3M sold their obsolete automation equipment cheaply in the surplus market. While many of friends jokingly and tauntingly called out Shapiro as crazy, he began creating and realigning the former mass production machines to creating kinetic sculptures. His success in his public kinetic art creations led Shapiro to work on his coffee table kinetic tables for three years.
He wanted something that people can enjoy in the confines of their homes that is near-silent and will run for many years. So how does it work? The simple version is that from the table top you will see a fully functional table with a thin layer of sand under its glass top. Under the table is a two-motor robot, called 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 or off switch. Just plug it in and it automatically calibrates itself, loads a default playlist of paths, and begins moving. You can control playback – selecting favorite tracks – speed of play, and table-lighting from a mobile app or by using any browser to connect to Sisyphus with Wi-Fi. Preordering is now being accepted on the Kickstarter website and first deliveries are targeted for late 2017.