Arcade Fire Glowing Ball drop at Coachella 2011

Arcade Fire dropped these super cool balls from the sky at the end of the concert at Coachella last night. They were big beach balls that lit up and syncronized with each other. Soooo cool. I have one and took it apart.

Official Video (found another one and youtube takes it down):

My video from inside the ball pit:



This device made by ESKI Studio has 6 LEDs (3 on the front, 3 on the back), a MIC and it looks like IR receivers and transmitters, and powered by 2 9Volt batteries.  The microprocessor is an ATTINY84 chip.

On the circuit board is PixMob G2 “Summer into Dust” edition v. 1.3 03-2011

I’m looking for ways to turn my device back on, so if you know how, please let me know in the comments!

Arcade Fire is amazing!  These colored beach balls put a cherry on top of their already amazing concert

EDIT:  found a way to turn on the lights again.  Take the Mic, and touch the metal of it to the center line of Q2 for Green, Q3 for Blue and Q1 for Red. (Thanks Matt)

Higher quality pics:

I’m not sure what the device in between the 2nd layer and the clear plastic is.  I think its an IR receiver but I can’t find another one online that looks like it.

Update 4/18 10:27:  I tried playing back the Arcade Fire concert from Coachella’s video feed and nothing happened with the LEDs.

Update 4/19:  Seriously??  Some D-Bag is selling his on EBay for $999 + shipping.  This may be $30 in electronics and a $2 beach ball.

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38 Responses to Arcade Fire Glowing Ball drop at Coachella 2011

  1. Names says:

    This is cool. Nice work, both you and the folks involved.

  2. Zombie Zero says:

    That board is Radio Frequency (RF) controlled, the silver oblong structure on the board is the frequency crystal. Its going to be next to impossible to get it to work again without knowing the frequency and the commands that are issued to it. It might be possible to dump the ROM and try to reverse engineer it but lets be honest, its not worth that much effort. A better way might be to get in touch with the company that makes it, they should have technical docs publicly available on how it operates.

  3. Greg says:

    Since the crystal is right next to the microcontroller, it’s probably providing the digital clock signal. Nothing to do with a radio.

    The three black squares next to each other are power transistors for driving the high-current LEDs.

    The input labeled “MIC” might be a microphone input which is either receiving ultrasonic sounds to control the whole thing, or maybe listening to the music for beats to figure out what to do. The former seems more likely, though getting ultrasound into the center of a beachball might be tough (think of how the high pitched sounds are the most muffled when you put a pillow over your head… or put your head inside a beach ball on a slow weekend).

    Critical question – what’s at the end of that wire we see coming off the “MIC” input?

    Also, Kevin, what’s on that second circuit board? Anything on the back of the board that has the microcontroller, LEDs and power transistors?

    Clever stuff, and what a show!

  4. Greg says:

    Oh, and one other possibility is that they’re all just using the microcontroller to execute a sequence of LED patterns. Sync ’em all up before dropping on the crowd and they listen with the built-in microphone for the break between songs to turn all the LEDs off then listen for the next song to start…

    The website claims the system knows where each is but that’s really unlikely from what I can see of the circuit board.

  5. Kevin says:

    At the end of that wire is what looks to be a small microphone.

  6. Kevin says:

    The seconf circuit board is an exact replica of the first board, without any of the devices. It has 3 LEDs, the same as the ones on the front. The wires going to that side of the device look to be completely pass thru to power those 3 LEDs.

  7. Kevin says:

    Exact replica with no transistors, no processor, etc. Basically the printed board with no components.

  8. after the concert there’s supposed to be a program in there that responds to the microphone input, blinking the LEDs in time to music. make sure your batteries are full.

  9. Would you mind putting the board on a scanner, and getting a good scan of both sides of both boards?


  10. Kevin says:

    I might be able to do that tonight when I get home. What would be better is if I just take some higher res photos with my DSLR. I’ll post an update either way later tonight.

  11. Pingback: d | djarum » Blog Archive » Mystery of the Arcade Fire Balls solved!

  12. Names says:

    Whatever URL comes with it is supposed to have user manuals for expanded features after the show, right?

  13. Kevin says:

    It should, but did not the last I checked.

  14. Edmond says:

    I got one too and am really curious to if I can get it to work again. I found this article on a CNN blog that says that you can reprogram it on your home computer:

    “The beach balls were outfitted on the inside with L.E.D. lights and infra-red sensors. Festival-goers who were lucky enough to snag a globe can reprogram the lights on their own computers.”

    I emailed the company and asked if its possible as well. Looking forward to hearing anything you guys come up with!

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  16. Thanks for the higher resolution images! Okay, so there is no radio antenna that I can see. I’m pretty solidly intrigued by the apparent IR receiver under the frosted plastic diffuser, however I’m getting more and more convinced that these are controlled by a high frequency audio signal.

    Either way, it’s a gorgeous board, and the effect during the concert was awesome.

  17. Nick says:

    There are 2 IR receivers on the device, one on each layer, 180 degrees apart on the circumference, the one below the frosted layer is protected from impact but the one on the other side is not and can snap off. The units were controlled by big IR flashers blasting out over the crowd. The thing on the end of the wire is a small mic capsule – looks like a Panasonic unit.

  18. Kevin says:

    Yeah, my 2nd IR receiver snapped off on the top board when I took it out of the ball. I’m looking for the IR sequence to make it work again and then program my Harmony remote to start it.

  19. Clara says:

    Does anyone know where on the balls the URLs are? I got one but I can’t find the URL!

  20. Kevin says:

    The URL is but there is nothing there yet.

  21. Bronco thomas says:

    That is pretty cool you snagged one. But I must correct you. Arcade Fire is not “amazing”, they are at best, mediocre. Sorry.

  22. Mitch Kirsch says:

    Check back on in one week for a full user’s manual for the balls.

  23. someguy says:

    the company that makes them is called Eski

    The company that makes the PCB boards is called Pulsar Circuits
    Both are out of Montreal.

  24. Nick says:

    How did you get it open? I’m afraid to break it by doing it the wrong way, thanks!

  25. Kevin says:

    Squeezed the white tabs of the plastic and just was careful with it.

  26. Nick says:

    Thanks! Just got mine working again, now I just have to blow the damn ball up again haha.

  27. Kevin says:

    Is yours blinking??? Mine won’t blink again and I can’t seem to figure out why not. Did you play back some Arcade Fire and it just starts to go off?

  28. Nick says:

    No, the ball responds to any sound as far as I can tell, the second I replaced the first battery it started going off again. Its VERY sensitive and will pick up noise from far away.
    I just finished blowing it back up and its working just like it did that night.

  29. Kevin says:

    Interesting. I may have a bad mic or something then. I did break off one of the IR receivers. The night of the show, my ball was just on the whole time, I thought it lost sync. When I unplugged the batteries and replugged them in, nothing seemed to happen.

    I might go and try for a fresh set.

  30. J says:

    Definitely just needs a fresh set of batteries. Mine acted just like yours until I switched them out.

    @Mitch Kirsch: Cant wait for the manual from you guys, I wanna see what else this ball can do

  31. Kevin says:

    New batteries, still no go. Hmm… I think somehow I may have burned mine up.

  32. Justin says:

    My light worked perfectly the night of the show and stayed on all night changing colors back at the house but when we woke up it was off. I just changed out the batteries but it is still off. The red light on the top flickers… but thats it.

  33. Kevin says:

    I wonder how many people’s ball still works. The LEDs would work if I touched the mic to certain parts of the metal on the board, but they never flashed on their own.

  34. Edmond says:

    Same here, mine has new batteries, but wont flash on its own. The LEDs light up if I touch the mic to the chips. I’m hoping instructions will come on how to reprogram it or turn it on.

  35. Dan says:

    Just stumbled upon this page, but my ball works just as Nicks does – by responding to sound. I actually have it hooked up to a wall outlet, just by using the method told on

  36. Erica says:

    Did you have any luck fixing the mic? Mine has the same problem.

  37. Kevin says:

    @Erica Nope, have not. It will not even turn on anymore. I think I blew out one of the circuits. Now its just a cool paperweight.

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