Former NASA Engineer Tricks Parcel Thieves With High-Tech Glitter Bomb

The engineer’s practical joke comes as Amazon invests heavily into improving the security of parcel deliveries

A former NASA engineer known for his popular gadget videos has created an elaborate glitter-spray bomb to play a prank on package thieves.

Mark Rober, who worked for seven years on NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity, decided to create the glitter bomb after his home security cameras captured thieves making off with a package from his doorstep in California.

He worked with co-builder Sean Hodgkins for six months to build the device, which is placed inside an Apple HomePod box that is wrapped in plastic so that it looks like an ordinary delivery package.

In his video, Rober, who is now a well-known as a YouTube personality, called the package a “six-month over-engineered monstrosity”.

Image credit: Mark Rober

High-tech practical joke

It uses four smartphones facing in four directions to capture the video and sound of the bomb distributing 1lb of glitter onto the parcel thieves and their surroundings.

The box is labelled as having been sent by “Kevin McCallister”, Macaulay Culkin’s character in the 1990 film Home Alone, who creates tricks to foil burglars.

The device features a custom-built circuit board with an accelerometer that detects motion when the parcel is jostled.

A GPS system built into the circuit board then checks whether the box has been moved from its original location, and if it has, it wakes the phones up so that they can begin recording.

When the box is opened, a spinning tub built into the top of the device distributes fine coloured glitter across the surrounding area.

The box is also rigged to blast fart spray every 30 seconds, in order to encourage the thieves to abandon it.

The package was stolen several times, and each time Rober recovered it, reset it and replaced it on his doorstep.

Thieves’ houses or car interiors are filmed being covered with glitter and fart spray, and in some cases they are shown laboriously vacuuming the extra-fine glitter off of their premises and belongings.

Parcel security

The recorded video was also uploaded to a cloud service so that it could be viewed in case the glitter package was not recovered.

Rober’s YouTube piece  has been viewed more than 8 million times.

Parcel theft has become a significant issue in the age of online shopping, particularly at Christmas, and Amazon last week said it had begun working with New Jersey police on the problem.

The company has also made huge investments into more secure delivery systems.

In 2017 it began offering a service called Amazon Key in some areas of the US that allows staff to deliver items inside of recipients’ homes, using a one-time passkey.

In February of this year it paid a reported $1 billion (£790m) for smart doorbell maker Ring, acquiring technology that could be integrated into the Key service.