A Robotic Sofa That Can Balance On One Leg

Jacob Tonski's sculpture <i>Balance from Within</i> transforms an old forgotten sofa into a elegant piece of art.

How do you get a 170-year-old sofa to balance on one leg without it toppling over and injuring someone? Well, if you're artist Jacob Tonski you augment it with a robotic mechanism usually found in spacecraft. In his installation Balance from Within, shown at this year's FILE festival in Brazil, the everyday object of a sofa is transformed into something much more magical, seemingly achieving the impossible by balancing on a single point.

Tonski took an old, battered sofa from the 1840s and set about turning it into an astonishing balancing act by placing a reaction wheel—a rotating mechnical device used in satellites for reorientation—inside it. By adding a second axis to the device the sofa is able to balance on just one leg—turning a neglected piece of furniture into a robotic sculpture. "The piece is a meditation on the nature of human relations, and the things we build to support them." Tonski says.

Each time the sofa tilts and might end up falling over, the internal mechanism senses it and counters it with an equal force which readdresses the balance. The sofa has also been remade with magnetically joined parts so that if it does fall over, the impact with which it does so is lessened as the weight is distributed across the structure as the pieces pull apart. It also means it can be reassembled and rebalanced.