Reviews: The Orbiter
The Orbiter from TEC Accessories has enjoyed a meteoric rise since it's release a few weeks ago. I'm pretty sure someone just came up with this idea by accident. Like...they were sitting around in their living room with some strong Neodymium magnets and a metal pinball laying around from some old board games and abandoned crafting projects and shit just happened. I think maybe I've even done something like this on my own when messing with bucky balls. No matter. Credit and romantic design stories aren't what I'm after. Fidgeting is.
This is essentially two sharply concave titanium buttons with a slice of Neodymium magnet in the middle and a side of miniature pinball. It's nicely done, and the buttons double as a ball holder while idle. Additionally, TEC does offer extra steel balls (though it seems like these should be included really) to do some multiple ball spinning. An experience I have not yet had. There is a small groove or track along the outer edge of the buttons that the ball also fits nicely into adding more functionality to this fidget toy. Whether that was by design or a happy accident, we'll never know, but I'm glad it's there.
It has a diameter of just 1 inch, though I would guess smaller by eye, and weighs just 48 grams. It's no pocket hog. The ball stays magnetized to the base station well and you won't have them both clattering around in your pocket if that is a concern.
Of note here though is that when you're using a Neodymium magnet of this strength, you're electronics may be at danger. So TEC advises you avoid placing the Orbiter near any electronics and/or magnetic media such as credit cards, magnetic ID cards, cellphones or televisions. This seems more precautionary to me, though I'd keep my cell and Orbiter in different pockets.
The Orbiter offers 4 different fidgeting variations according to TEC Accessories. Two are legit fidget certified, while the other two are more novelty or mere byproducts of this design.
- The most basic and generally the function of this fidget toy has me using a very strong Neodymium magnet, which substitutes for a bearing here, as an anchor for spinning a metal ball around the circumference of the Orbiter. Saving the inevitable masturbation parallel, the motion used to spin the fidget in this manner could best be described as spinning a hula hoop with your hand. It's all in the subtle, slight, rhythmic movement. That's the real key to spinning the Orbiter effectively. And it's a bit of a challenge. Not your idle fidget spinner if you will. Ultimately though, the subtlety of movement you use to spin this thing is really up to you. It does seem the more adept you become at the nuances of spinning the Orbiter, the tighter or more subtle the motion you'll use to spin it. I find myself doing this with the Orbiter in quick satisfying bursts of energy, then going back to whatever I was doing. The sound of the ball spinning around the magnet can be grating and monotonous after a bit. Of note here is that the magnet is very strong, and I haven't spun it off accidentally yet, but I'm certain it is possible if you're determined.
- Another method is to hold the Orbiter horizontally so what fidget spinner's would call the buttons or caps are facing the floor and sky. There is a small groove between the caps and the body that can act as a track for the metal ball. It's not easy, especially at first, but once you get the ball rolling around this very tight circle, it's very satisfying. The difficulty comes from the strength of the Neodymium magnet wanting to pull the ball over the side or the ball rolling to fast and falling over the rail. It's a delicate balance. Late game Jenga or wish bone removal in Operation hand steadiness is needed to achieve good results here. A nice long satisfying spin in this manner can be almost meditative, and at the higher end of maintainable angular velocity the ball will dance between actual contact with the base station and maglev which is a real trip. And when you do inevitably push the barriers of centripetal force and your ball goes off the track, the magnet will catch it before it spills over the side and no harm done. This thing is restaurant and movie theater safe. You're not going to have to touch mystery goo on the theater floor grasping after a metal ball in the dark.
- They say this thing can spin like a spinning top as well with the ball magnetized to the base station in the concave button and acting as the bearing or point of contact with the spinning surface. I can get the Orbiter to do this about once out of every ten attempts, and really, it's not that satisfying of a payoff. I'd leave this method of spinning to the tops.
- Lastly, you can seat the metal ball in either button and while maintaining contact with the ball, move it like a trackball. I have to say, this does feel nice as it's a buttery smooth feeling, but I'd be hard-pressed to call this a feature of the product.
The Orbiter is no idle fidget toy. You need to at least pay a bit of attention to what your hand is doing in order to get some real satisfaction out of it. Not that you can't watch the tube while spinning this, you just need to give it 5% of your attention, at it's most fundamental fidget function, while your typical fidget spinner is almost mindless. Whether that's for you or not isn't for me to decide. Personally, I like the Orbiter a lot. I don't recognize anything groundbreaking in fidgetdom having happened here, but we're at least starting to branch off into some uncharted waters, even if we're still in the shallows.
If you want to take a shot at a DIY version of the Orbiter it looks like this would be a good start.