Video: 170-year-old robotic sofa balances on one leg

'Balance from Within' uses satellite gyroscopes (and magnets) to keep itself together.

A 170-year-old sofa balancing itself on one leg is unusual. A 170-year-old sofa balancing itself on one leg that collapses and is then joined back together with magnets is rarer still.  Add a healthy dose of allegory on top of that and, well, you’ve got yourself a pretty unique sofa.

Called ‘Balance from Within’ the sofa in question is the creation of Jacob Tonski, artist-in-residence at the STUDIO for Creative Enquiry. Once hoisted into position the sofa balances itself through the use of a pair of reaction wheels – mechanisms that are typically used to orientate satellites and other spacecraft.

The sofa is “continuously teetering, responding internally to external forces” and indeed, watching the video one can see slight twitches in its frame as it adjusts itself to stay upright. The wheels inside it work by creating angular momentum through a spinning mass, operating in a similar fashion to a gyroscope.

The sofa itself (an early-Victorian piece from the 1840s that Tonski found in a junkshop) was chosen because, as pieces of furniture, sofas play host to “the full range of social interactions”:  “from dinner to chatting to job interviews to sex.”

“Sofas are these ubiquitous, often very humble things,” says Tonski, “built by man to facilitate social interaction – is it any wonder that their footing is so solid when they’re made to build these delicate structures we build – relationships – prone to falling apart, prone to falling down.”

Luckily for the sofa, Tonski has deconstructed it and filled its frame with magnets. When the sofa fall it breaks into pieces and can be snapped back together to balance once more.  

(Via Creative Applications)

The sofa balancing. The twin reaction wheels that stabilise themselves. The collapsed sofa ready to be put back together with magnets.

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