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Here’s a real version of that endlessly spinning top from ‘Inception’

LIMBO - Now live on Kickstarter

Remember how, in Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Dom Cobb uses a spinning top to work out whether he’s awake or dreaming? If the top spins a few times and then topples over, Cobb knows he’s awake. If it keeps spinning in perpetuity, he understands that he’s asleep. Well, the team behind a new Kickstarter campaign just blurred the lines between reality and the dreamworld in a big way — courtesy of a metal top that’s capable of spinning for hours on end.

Called Limbo, the metal spinning top achieves this by way of a hidden silent mechanism which functions as a gyro, and keeps the top running for as long as the battery still has some juice left in it. Inside the top, there’s a rechargeable battery, a special asymmetric flywheel motor, a high-end motion sensor, and an advanced system-on-a-chip which constantly monitors Limbo’s stability and applies dozens of motion corrections every second.

Essentially, the in-built accelerometer senses the direction and spin speed of the top, and then uses an algorithm to adjust the power of its motor accordingly. When Limbo senses that it is slowing down, the motor accelerates — and so does the top.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

“What makes Limbo so magical is its ability to learn and adapt to the surface it’s spinning on,” Tom Ben-Yehuda, chief technology officer at manufacturer Fearless Toys Ltd., told Digital Trends. “It was surprising even for us to witness how clever the control algorithms proved to be. We’ve tried to spin it on some really crazy objects. The first time we spun Limbo on a tomato it was really confused, but in a few seconds time the algorithm figured out the surface and it was like, ‘yeah, I can do that!’

Ben-Yehuda said that the biggest engineering challenge of the project was squeezing its myriad components into less than three cubic centimeters of space, the equivalent of roughly half a teaspoon. The finished assembly weighs only around 16 grams in an effort to maximize its efficiency.

If you’re in doubt about how well it works, don’t be: The team has just received an official record from the team at the Guinness World Record for longest spinning mechanical top. Their record? 27 hours, 9 minutes and 24 seconds. Considering most tops spin for mere minutes, that’s astonishing.

As ever, we offer our usual cautions about the potential risks of pledging for crowdfunding campaigns. However, if you’re keen to get your hands on a Limbo spinning top, you can head over to the project’s Kickstarter page. A Limbo top starts at $49, although you’ll have to be quick to secure this price point. Shipping is set to take place in December.

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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