This is a real soccer ball. You can head it, kick it, knee it, slap it out of a goal with your fist, or, if you are Diego Maradona, knock it into one. A soccer ball does not need another reason to be a wonderful thing, but this particular soccer ball provides one: Kick it around for 30 minutes and it powers an LED bulb for three hours.
The Soccket was developed by Harvard grad Jessica Matthews, the co-founder and CEO of Uncharted Play. As you play with the ball, a generator inside stores the kinetic energy from its movements. That means it has the potential to make a huge difference in disadvantaged countries where soccer is popular but energy is scarce or, in the case of kerosene lamps, dangerous. Thanks to corporate sponsors, Socckets have already been distributed in South Africa, Mexico, and Brazil.
The Soccket has been through several versions. Earlier attempts were too heavy or too rigid, but this ball seems to be just right. The materials are light, and the size of the gyroscope, necessary to generate energy, has been reduced. The only thing that isn’t perfect is the bounce, but really, who needs a ball to bounce.
The ball isn’t cheap – $99 on Kickstarter for a ball/lamp combo — but as it gets more popular and easier to manufacture the price should come down. This is good, since the people it would most benefit are those who tend to use kerosene for lighting, i.e. people in the third world, i.e. people who don’t go on Kickstarter a lot. Oh well. Progress, not perfection.