Students use giant balls to build omnidirectional motorcycle

Riding this bike takes balls. Gigantic balls. Quite possibly the largest pair of balls you've ever seen in one place. Round wheels are out and spherical wheels are in with this project from students at San Jose State University, the end result of which will be a rideable electric motorcycle that uses balls instead of wheels.

If this concept looks familiar, that's because you've seen it before. In the movies:


It's a little hard to see in the pic, but this Audi RSQ from I, Robot uses spherical wheels instead of round wheels. Here's a clip from the movie that shows what you can do with a wheel that isn't restricted to one axis of movement:

Outside of the movies, you may have also seen something like this as the drive system for a self-balancing, omnidirectional robot called Rezero:

Essentially, this project is taking two of those ballbots, sticking them together, and adding some handlebars and a seat in the middle. The end result won't rely entirely on changing its center of mass to move, but it will be able to balance itself and move from side to side without turning, making parallel parking a cinch, for those of you who parallel park your motorcycles. More extreme tricks will be possible as well, like rotating the entire bike in a complete circle while driving.

Currently, the SJSU students have finished the bike's frame and have gotten themselves a pair of huge rubber-coated carbon fiber and fiberglass balls. They've successfully tested drive systems and electronics in smaller models, and by the end of the year, they hope to have their prototype ready for low speed testing and awesomness. See what the final product should look like in the gallery below.

Spherical Drive System Bike, via OhGizmo

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