Creating mesmerising kinetic art furniture with Sisyphus

These beautiful tables create ever-changing patterns in the sand below the glass surface. They are the flagship product of Sisyphus Industries, and they’re powered by Raspberry Pi.

Not your standard IKEA fare

In a list of things I thought I’d ever read about alongside Raspberry Pi, “coffee tables” and “sand” were not near the top. Sisyphus started life as an art installation for museums, but Raspberry Pi has allowed the company behind this mesmerising creation to scale up and offer you “museum-quality kinetic sculpture” for your own living room. They’re named “Sisyphus”, of course, because they never finish pushing the ball bearing across the sand, leaving patterns behind it.

Swirly, swirly, over and over

Artist Bruce Shapiro started Sisyphus Industries in Minnesota in 2016. At the time, it was the most funded art project in Kickstarter’s ten-year history; now, there are over 9000 kinetic art tables in homes and offices worldwide.

Raspberry Pi-powered Sisbot

Machinery inside Sisyphus table

The Sisbot robot is the brains inside the table and it’s powered by Raspberry Pi. A stepper or servo motor-controlled magnet pulls the ball bearing through the sand along a programmed path of coordinates chosen or created by the user. The ball is constantly moving and creating new patterns, so you can sit and flaze at it for hours on end. No need for an open fire to rest your eyes on.

Each Sisbot is handmade, and the hardware sits snugly on these plates below the table surface

Create your own art

You can choose your kinetic art using the Sisyphus app, which remotely controls the Sisbot. There are more than 2500 sand art designs by Sisyphus owners all over the world to choose from. You can also upload and share your designs.

A mobile phone showing the Sisyphus app sitting on top of one of the tables
Become a kinetic artist with just your mobile phone

While Bruce drew inspiration from the legend of Sisyphus constantly pushing a boulder up a mountain, his creation is anything but futile. The ball bearing moving across its tiny desert makes for some truly dreamy visuals, and it’s housed in a decidedly functional and robustly built piece of furniture.

Read the story of Sisyphus

These gorgeous tables-cum-artworks are the latest thing to feature on our Success stories page, which celebrates Raspberry Pi-based innovation in industry.

Interior design porn from the Sisyphus website
Drool over the interior design on Sisyphus Industries’ website

Sisyphus’s story is a particularly lovely one, so make sure to read the longer version to learn more about the artist’s background and how the company has grown from Kickstarter fame to international acclaim.

Jump to the comment form

Dan avatar

This would get me in trouble as I would stare contemplatively at the table as it doodles away as choirs/work pile up behind me. Is my roast burning? I don’t know but the ball in the sand is pretty.

Reply to Dan

Liz Upton avatar

I’m assuming you mean “chores”, but the mental image of stacked choirs is just spectacular.

Reply to Liz Upton

Ashley Whittaker avatar

I mean, choirs can stack their vocals I guess, but I would think they’re too heavy to stack physically.

Reply to Ashley Whittaker

G Hughes avatar

Nice tables. Of course these would be great in a coffee shop + it would be nice if you could use them to place your order too rather than fiddling with QR codes etc.

Reply to G Hughes

Jeff avatar

The latency when updating the “screen” might make for a bad UX when ordering. You might be able to have the table draw the QR code, though – just hope nobody bumps it.

Reply to Jeff

G Hughes avatar

Well I wasn’t very clear was I? No, I didn’t think the sand should be used as a screen for the “user experience” of ordering coffee. That would be separate, obvs!!!

Reply to G Hughes

Ashley Whittaker avatar

I was *totally* up for the idea of coding the ball to write “latte” in the sand.

Reply to Ashley Whittaker

Carmine DiChiara avatar

I own one of these – people really enjoy looking at it. Just wanted to let people know its firmwars is incredibly unstable, I’ve had to flash it probably 4-5 times over the 3 years I’ve had it. When it loses power the firmware disconnects from wifi and needs to be reset, possibly flashed. But the hardware’s lovely. :)

Reply to Carmine DiChiara

Leave a Comment