A stunning rotating display, The ultraOrb creates a sphere of 3D color animation to provide a new perspective on visual information. In a multi-generational collaboration with his father and grandfather, James Sears constructed The Orb as his thesis project for New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.

The system consists of 320 tri-color LEDs mounted on a custom dual-axis aluminum chassis. As the frame spins, 16 microcontrollers trigger the LEDs at precise moments to give the illusion of a full 3D volumetric shape within an 11″ sphere. It’s based on a perceptual process called “persistence of vision,” a theory that the eye retains an image for a brief moment even after the image vanishes. Persistence of vision is what tricks the mind into seeing flip books and films as continuous motion instead of a series of discrete pictures.

According to its inventors, The ultraOrb “is a step toward reestablishing the relevance of the globe as spherical object for increasing viewers’ awareness and perspective on issues of worldwide significance.”

James has been documenting the making of The ultraOrb in great detail on his blog. Maker Faire visitors will have a rare chance to see this mind-bending device with their own eyes.

The Bay Area Maker Faire is May 19 and 20 at the San Mateo Fairgrounds. Advance tickets are now available.