Any sufficiently advanced technology

I’m really curious about the anthropology of a product like this. We like to agree with Arthur C. Clarke’s observation that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. But what we often get looks less like magic than zombification—technologized tools as undead. I mean, doesn’t this remote control ball seem to suffer from some kind of unearthly curse? I refer not merely to its cthnonic hue—a carbonic blackness that seems to suck up the light—I mean also its timorous, halting movement. It’s like a mixture of the Happy Fun Ball and the throbbing, glowing orb from the animated cult classic Heavy Metal.

Orbotix, the company that makes this ball, points out that it features “an onscreen component with online stats, profiles, damage, powerups and other aspects of gameplay that aren’t possible with a regular remote control toy.” Or a regular ball, for that matter. But that’s not magic, that social marketing.

The ball that is being released for the consumer market, called Sphero, is friendlier-looking than the prototype shown above. And hey, it’s open source, so it has to be great. In fact I bet you can do all kinds of cool things with it; a whole new kind of sport might come from technologies like this. It’s a far cry from, say, the Snitch, that fickle, elusive golden orb in Quidditch, the sport of Harry Potter fame. But I suppose we must walk before we can fly.

About Mohit

One comment

  1. +10 for the Happy Fun Ball reference!

    That herky-jerky zombie movement you mention is evident, however small, in many anthropomorphic things. Those odd robotic heads you see coming from Japan, robotic pets, even prosthetic limbs all suffer from some form of electronic palsy. Even subtle almost invisible jerking motions will be picked up by our subconscious and flag that thing as not real. It’ll be a long time still before the million year old survival system in our brain is able to completely fooled.

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