Detailed driving guide

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For someone who wishes to become proficient at driving orbs at shows and events, this guide attempts to help explain their behavior and how to better operate them.

Surface descriptions

The orbs behave very differently on different surfaces, as we all know. From most friction to least friction, they are:

Friction: 4+

Deep sand. Brownie type overcrusted playa dust. Glue.

Orb behavior:

No go. Orb is stranded.

Friction 3:

Grass. Easiest on shells, uses the most battery charge.

Orb behavior:

Not too much skill necessary. The orb controllers have two settings, high and low. Orbs can probably run 15-30 minutes on low setting, after that one might have to switch to high/fast setting to get enough oomph to get the orbs out of divots in the grass terrain.

Friction 2:

Playa dust. Easiest for beginners, but hard to come by 51 out of 52 weeks of the year.

Also: Dirt, carpet.

Orb behavior:

Orbs will still stop on their own if there's no input from the controller. Orbs can pick up quite a bit of speed, and become more hazardous to innocent bystanders. Orbs can become hard to stop, and they start exhibiting the sideways wobble. Most of the time orbs are fine in low speed controller setting, unless the batteries are really run down.
I would be reluctant letting unknown people drive the orbs on those surfaces, especially with obstacles around that could hurt the orbs.

Friction 1:

This is hard surface, and is significantly harder to drive. Low rolling friction, and very low horizontal turning friction. Actually, I could subdivide this even more:

type 1 - 2
Asphalt with lots of blacktop tar on top, or linoleum. Soft-ish on top. This is what the Robogames surface is like.
type 1 - 1
Hard asphalt (street). Hard on orb shells, quite tricky to control.
type 1 - 0
Smooth hard stone, like the marble-like floor at the Cal Academy or Arts. Extremely tricky to drive (but possible).

Orb behavior:

Low speed controller setting, and very tiny movement input is key.
Orbs will roll significantly faster, and keep rolling after controller input has stopped. They may pick up speed on their own even on very slight downhill grades unless there's braking action from controller. Orbs will exhibit significant wobble, and may wobble and spin out of control if too much controller input is applied. TGetting the orb to point in a certain direction is tricky, and orbs can start horizontal spin at the slightest disturbance. Orb wranglers are necessary. On surfaces of type 1-0, there's almost no friction to stop orbs from spinning horizontally, quick braking can even make orbs skid.

General driving hints:

  • Learn on easier surfaces if possible, apply as little drive as possible to get you what you want.
  • Work on smooth slow-downs from high speed by using gentle counter action.
  • Get familiar with turns: Orbs turn more predictably at higher speeds, which makes them gyroscopically stable. (That's true even on type 1, but there make sure to leave space to slow down afterwards). Practice the easy turns at high speeds, away from other orbs/objects, and the harder turns at very low speeds.
  • Get familiar with straight driving forward and backward, with the orb pointing in *any* direction. (the plastic dome is the *back* side)
  • Get familiar with turns, especially while driving backward and the orb pointing in a random direction. Learn not to get confused on which direction to steer - this surprisingly is quite tricky, but it is an essential skill for K type turns.
  • Practice K-type turns (as with a car) to do on-the spot turns. Necessary inside a crowd ring of people. Practice this on type 1 surfaces, moving in as little space, and with as little controller input as possible.
  • Getting orbs out of divots on grass: Adding sideways tilt to maximum forward drive gives an orb a bit more power, sometimes just enough to bring it over the edge and out of a divot. Other times, a rolling back and forth movement, making the orb roll higher each time, can wobble it out of a divot. But often nothing other than a manual push will help...

Type 1 surface hints:

  • Use controllers in low speed mode, the finer control is necessary.
  • work with an orb wrangler for crowd control, and help in tricky orb control situations.
  • stay far away from non-people objects (including other orbs)
  • keep practicing direction / turning control
  • again, use as little controller input as possible, go extremely slow when people are around.
  • try to avoid wobble as much as possible. If it does happen (it will), just stop controller input until it stops. It's almost impossible to correctly actively counteract wobble.
  • use smooth slowdowns from higher speeds rather than abrupt stops to avoid wobble and spin
  • The worst thing on a type 1 surface is the unholy combination of orb wobble, horizontal spin (sometimes induced by passerbys strafing the orbs), and objects/people close by. And if this additionally happens on a slightly slanted (accelerating) surface, only an orb wrangler can save us from impending doom...

Other notes

  • Make happy sounds to say hi to people, and angry sounds if they aren't nice to the orb, or don't get out of the way.
  • Stay away from people in shorts or in skirts. Hitting unprotected legs with the orbs can cause scrapes and bruises. Pants are usually enough for protection.
  • Green lights = happy, Red lights = angry (sometimes)
  • A slight left-right wiggle while the orb is standing is useful to make the orb say "Hi!" to kids. Works surprisingly well... (it's a bit hard on the steering mechanics though)
  • Practice getting as close as possible to an object without hitting it, very slowly. Useful for getting close to nice kids in strollers without hitting them, who want to touch the orb.
  • A very slow roll, a friendly sound and a friendly wiggle sometimes calms down little kids who are afraid of the orb...