Life Size Katamari Ball

ImageI want to share my latest project with you today. This project was the brain child of a friend of mine, Chris McInnis, owner of Über Cool Stuff, and all-round super geek. ( He, being a huge fan of the video game Katamari, wanted to build a real life version for a local festival here in London, Ontario known as Nuit Blanche.

In the game, you play a character that must roll around a sticky little ball that picks up all kinds of objects that causes the ball to grow larger and larger. The idea for this project was to create a large ball (36 inches in diameter) that a user could roll in place and control the game that was being projected onto the side of a building. So, essentially, we needed to create a giant trackball that would be interfaced to a controller of a Sony Playstation 2.

As you might guess, this took quite a bit of research to figure out. Right away we found someone who had already created this setup and was kind enough to post most of the details on her site. ( ) Kelly had created a working version that we just needed to recreate.

Watch the giant Katamari ball in action. Right here, and (NEW) here.

The Plan

The plan was to create a platform that would allow a 36” diameter yoga ball to rotate freely on the base. Under the ball we would attach two optical computer mice, each one acting as the Playstation 2 controllers’ thumb sticks. The game is played with tank like controls, so as the ball is rolled forward, it slides over both mice and simulates both thumb sticks being pushed up. When the ball is pulled back, toward the user, it simulates both thumb sticks being pulled down. When the user turns the ball clockwise it would simulate the left thumb stick being pushed forward, and the right thumb stick being pulled back, and so on. In order to accomplish this, we would need to make the controller think that the computer mice inputs were in fact the thumb sticks. To do this we used the Arduino to read both computer mice, and send those inputs to the digital potentiometer. The chip was directly connected to where the thumb sticks were attached on the controller.

Parts List

  • Arduino UNO
  • Breadboard
  • Digital Potentiometer AD5206
  • Two optical computer mice (PS2 not USB)
  • 36” Yoga Ball
  • Playstation 2 system with Katamari game and disposable controller

How we did it

Using Kellbot’s information as a guide, we started gathering the necessary parts. I began de-soldering the analog thumb sticks from the controller and soldering in wire leads that would lead to the breadboard. I also had to drill and attach leads to various buttons on the controller that we would need during game play.


While I worked on this, Chris ordered an Arduino UNO and began sourcing the AD5206 digital potentiometer chip. This chip has 6 pots on it. We only needed 4 of them for this project: 2 for each controller thumb stick (x and y directions) and with the additional 2 pots, I thought we could attach some LEDs that would illuminate the project, based on the controllers movement.

In theory, this build is really simple. Once the leads are attached to the controller, they simply plug into the pot chip. The controller has two analog thumb sticks, and each one is simply made up of two potentiometers. These make up the x and y directions. So with only four potentiometers needed, I could directly wire them to the AD5206. In this case, AWB 1, and AWB 2, were x and y for the left thumb stick, and AWB 3, and AWB 4, were for the x and y of the right thumb stick.

Next I needed to get the mice attached and working on the Arduino UNO. Here I ran into a problem. The Arduino has an existing library for using PS2 attached mice, and I decided to use USB mice plugged into a passive USB to PS2 adapter. I could not even get the mice to power up. After a few days, Chris was able to find us some more help in the form of Tom Gwozdz. It was Tom who, after looking everything over, suggested that we should try a PS2 optical mouse instead. As soon as we did, success! It turns out that my brand new Dell mice were not backward compatible with the PS2 protocol.  At this point, everything was hooked up, and I was ready to finish up coding everything.

ImageConnecting the mice to the Arduino was trivial. The PS2 mouse has four wires, two for power and ground, one for data, and one for clock. In this project I attached mouse one data to pin 5, and clock to pin 6 on the Arduino. Mouse two data went to pin 3, and clock went to pin 9.


The AD5206 is very easy to control and only requires sending a number between 0 and 255 on channel 0 through 5. I was able to follow the layout of an existing Arduino tutorial to get the UNO talking to the AD5206.

We did run into a few other issues, and in the end, after a few group brainstorming sessions, and two more controller tear-downs, we finally had a working system. We also had a grounding issue that caused us to stress at the last minute during the final setup. But in the end, it worked great, and the smiles we saw made all the hard work worth it.

If you’re interested, here is the Arduino sketch along with the PS2 mouse library. Tom was the mastermind behind this code.

The Final Project

Watch the giant Katamari ball in action. Right here, and (NEW) here.


Figuring out how the Sony Playstation controller works.

Connecting the Arduino to the AD5206 (HUGE help)

The proof of concept, Kelly led the way for us. (Thanks!)


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Update to my Museum and Art

I’m on vacation this week and have found a little time to update both my computer museum (Tandy, and PC accessories) and some of my art pages. I am currently working a 3.5″ floppy disk art project and am in need of your old floppy disks. If you have any that you would like to donate to my project, that would help a lot. If you have a large quantity then please let me know how much you want for them.

Anyway, enjoy the new updates.

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Posted in Computer Museum, My Art

IKEA Hack – Custom Computer Case

I just added a new page to my Projects page. I built a multi-computer transcoding computer and used IKEA parts to make it. Combining a laundry hamper and two computer desk parts, as well as some wood and various other parts, I built a pretty cool custom computer case. It currently houses two computers and the plan is to wedge in at least one more. Check it out here. I think it looks great!


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Added three Projects

Hi all, I’ve added three of my projects to the Projects Menu.

My antique radio cabinet iPod dock. This project took a while to complete, but it’s done now, and works great. It currently lives in my dining room. you can read about my struggles with not restoring this beautiful old cabinet and just going ahead and *gasp* paint it!

It turned out better than I even hoped for. Make sure you check it out here.

My R2D2 project will fill you in on my progress so far. I stall have a lot of work to do, but it’s coming along nicely. Found here.

Finally, I’ve updated my original MAME arcade machines page. There is not as much detail as my last machine build, but you can see where I drew my inspiration from. Check out the picture of ‘The Twins’, then ask yourself, What kind of woman lets her husband build these monsters in the dining room? Answer – A GREAT one! See it here.

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More Vintage Computers

I’ve been working at photographing my computer collection over the last few days and I’ve added most of the Atari and Commodore machines to the Computer Museum page. Check it out if you are interested in taking a closer look.

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Added Vintage Computers

Hi all, I’ve spent some time today taking some glamor shots of some of my computer collection. If you’re interested, take a look at some 8-bit Atari computers and accessories. I’ve added the Atari 600XL, the 800XL, the 300 baud modem, and the 1010 Recorder. Check it out in the Computer Museum.

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New Computers for my Collection

New 'old' computers for my collection

New ‘old’ computers for my collection

I’m pretty excited right now! I was able to add some new computers to my personal computer collection this weekend, at no cost. It’s always fun to find these lost treasures that for the most part are destined for electronic recycling or worse yet – the dump! Quick to respond to a posting in kijiji, I was the lucky candidate to take ownership of 5 systems. I’ll be adding them to my Computer Museum as soon as I can. I have quite a few systems and accessories to add, and I’ll be trying for that this week.

I’ll keep you posted when they are up.

A Couple More Here

A Couple More Here

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Just added a new project, Meet the RONCADE!

MAME Arcade Project

MAME Arcade Project

As I start to compile and add things to this blog I’ll let you know what’s new. I just added one of my most recent project the the Projects page. My New Arcade Machine – With Custom Controls. is up and loaded with a ton of pictures. It always hard to remember to photo-document a project when I’m right into things, but I managed to snap some great progress shots.

If you’re interested in the entire process of building a computer MAME arcade machine, then you will really like this. Everything was scratch built by yours truly.

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Welcome to my NEW blog!

Ron Leblanc

Hello, and welcome to my new blog! I have been blogging on and off for a few years now as well as creating other various content on the Internet. This blog is going to be the official repository for all my creations. I have a variety of interests in technology and art, and plan to use this blog to share and display for all.

My passion for technology means you will not only get to see the latest and greatest new gadgets, including unboxing’s and reviews, but I’ll be sharing items from my own personal computer museum. Also follow along with my projects. In the past I have built complete MAME arcade machines – even sold a few. I also saved an antique radio from the trash and turned it into an iPod dock. Follow along with my ongoing technology art projects. I will be posting both my poems, and some of my more modern computer/electronic art pieces.

Please check back regularly as I plan on posting and in some cases re-posting everything I have here on these pages. I have a lot to go through and put up here, and also plan to add new items as we go. So hang on as you explore the world of the ‘Renaissance Geek’.

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