Sifteo – Resurrecting a Legend

Posts tagged sifteo

Stop Press – Update 26/5/22

I’ve been away (and busy) for quite a while, but I am presenting on this project at EMF Camp 2022. Here’s the link if you are attending:

I have also recently upgradedmy twlve year old iMac to a shiny M1-based MacBook Pro, and straight away noticed that SiftRunner (which still runs on a PC using Windows 10) is definitely dead in the water. I had been told of this in earlier builds of MacOS, but didn’t have the hardware to test or fix. So, I will (in my <ahem> spare time, try to work on reverse engineering SiftRunner to get it to work on modern Macs. This is only needed for the V1 cubes (the ones with the charging case) but running these as slave devices from a more powerful machine might possibly be a good thing to resurrect. Not to say that this functionality wouldn’t be good for the V2 (base station) cubes as well. JoysCubes, the modern reimplementation, are also Bluetooth devices, and so this should be much easier, but PC <–> base station communications would be nice too.

A friend and colleague managed to do a proof of concept build using node.js to communicate with the original Sifteo Cubes, so I know it is theoretically possible. However, I will have to investigate. These V1 cubes have also been reported more frequently as having battery death – they are probably getting old enough for this to be likely – and while none of mine have succumbed yet, it is probably inevitable. When this happens I will do some surgery and open one up, to see if we can do a battery replacement to keep the original cubes running. I lost a V2 cube – always check your batteries are removed before long term storage :’-( or you will get acid damage, as happened to the one cube I forgot to empty – and have opened it up to see if it can be repaired, but there is a lot of corrosion inside. My heart sank when I went to use them again and saw that one still had the AAA battery inside; I knew it was going to be a goner. So, still resurrecting. Hope that this site is still of use to all you Sifteo fanatics, and if you did see me at EMF Camp this year, give me a 5 star review. Maybe I will have more news for the next one!

with thanks

Update 21/9/21

It’s been reported to me that SiftRunner no longer works on some newer versions of MacOS (probably as it is a 32 bit application). I don’t have hardware to investigate this right now, but it still works for Windows, if you have access. I know that there were rumours of a standalone Android version of SiftRunner that would allow the devices (via the dongle) to run without a PC at all; there are videos of David Merrill (I think) showing an Android tablet controlling the cubes. And a fan has gotten node.js to communicate between a PC and the cubes, so some form of replacement SiftRunner App might be feasible. I will have to wait until I have newer kit, to be able to explore this. Hopefully one day 🙂

Update 26/5/20

I have rewritten the hacked regedit file to be bespoke generated for you on Windows machines; I still have to do the same for Mac users, so please be patient. Commenting below will motivate me. As would PayPal donations 🙂 which would help me cover the £00s it costs me to host files and this blog, and keep research into this wonderful toys (and other ‘dead’ tech, like the Pleo Dinosaur – coming soon!)

So, the installation of software, editing the Registry to avoid the “login problem”, and installing all the official commercial games released by Sifteo back in the day, has all been automated 😀 thanks, in part, to the people who brought you the Bluetooth-enabled clone cubes, over at who took my hack without permission, attribution, or acknowledgement 🙁 and posted it, with the games I actually had permission to host (again without permission, I suspect, but I guess that as long as we all get to enjoy these little devices of joy, that is ALL that matters).

This lack of attribution irked me, as I put in a lot of time reverse engineering the Apps to get them to run without the now defunct remote servers. However, they have come back to me with an offer of sending me a base station and three of their cubes, which I think is a fair exchange for the work I did to keep these things alive; this is ALL that matters in the end. And, to give them their due, they did create a nice .bat file to smooth the install process, even if it was only for Windows, and only for the v2 cubes they had copied. So, in the spirit of <ahem> being “inspired” by them being “inspired” by my reverse engineering, I have fixed their script, made it more streamlined, and separated out the v1 and v2 cube softwares into two new installers. See all that below, in the downloads section. And now, semi-rant over, back to your regularly scheduled programme…

Sifteo’s last web page… REF


You want to get to the download stuff, right?
(and why the Hell not?)
There will always be updates, but it IS useful to know a little history behind these lovely toys, isn’t it?

Please note, this is a stub growing resource right now. Here will be important resources for all versions of the Sifteo Cube, and its software. All this exists to revere a ground breaking product innovation, and with thanks to David Merrill and all at Sifteo!

So, what are (or were) Sifteo Cubes?
(and why do they need ‘resurrecting’)
There are probably better sources of the whole story – Dailytekk, blueprint and wikipedia for a start – but briefly…
Sifteo Cubes started out in 2008 as Siftables, an MIT project for the young David Merrill (archived link).

He did a TED Talk that blew people away. I saw it, back in 2009 and thought “Wow”, and then “Will never happen…” and went on my way. Then in the middle of last year, I was watching an old Extra Credits YouTube video about Games You Might Not Have Tried and when I got to 6:45 I literally dropped my coffee cup… “Shit,” I thought, “I’ve seen these… Years ago!” And what’s more, after cleaning up the coffee 🙁 I felt the displaced Geek Shame of those who discover something that has existed for years, and it passed them by; Sifteo first came out, with the first generation in 2011 after a post-TED Talk VC fundraising, launching at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), then a subsequent version, with some ‘improvements’ came out the following year.

“How did I not hear about these?” I muttered, longing for the lost caffeine. “Right, credit card out… I’ll go buy some RIGHT NOW!” exclaimed I! Ahhh… “What!” I had not only missed the boat – Sifteo had stopped selling these in 2014! – but I had just missed the web site being shut down for the last time in August 2015. After some alleged cash flow issues, the company – mostly its incredible engineering and software talent – had been bought out by 3D Robotics, a drone manufacturer, for whom Sifteo staff skills would be perfect.

While the promised support didn’t last too long – A Redditor announced all the games were free for a short while – the web site itself was gone in mid August 🙁 However, the software (not the games!) for the V2 cubes was made open source, even if there was little documentation; this was announced in December 2014 amidst discussions of the company finances, and as is often the case, ‘open source’ was the precursor to worse times. So, not only was most of the software now unavailable, I thought it was unlikely to get hold of either version of Sifteo Cubes – searches on eBay and the Internet at the time revealed dumped stock in ‘completed sales’ 🙁 or people asking STUPID prices D: I’m looking at You and YOU and other greedy Amazon sellers…

£120 for ONE cube!
$450 “like new!”

Just for the record, I have seen prices of over $1000 for a set when I first looked last year. However, (and sometimes although most listings are for screen protectors on there; there must have been the assumption that these would do better than they did, so there is a lot of old stock of Sifteo screen protectors) have much more affordable sales that come and go; right now (My 2020) there are quite a few on sale, for example. I’ve been lucky enough not to pay too much for my own cubes. And now, of course, you can buy NEW ones, with added Bluetooth (!) from Joyscube!!! See this link:

But (and it’s a big BUT, I cannot lie) you don’t NEED the physical product to enjoy the games. That is what this page is for 🙂

See below for download links for the various bits of software needed to install, run and make your own Sifteo Cube games, for both versions: the V1, the ones that needed a PC/Mac dongle to run the SiftRunner software remotely, and the V2, which had a standalone base station and touch screens, etc, but still used Sifteo Sync to download new games.

NOTE: Please DON’T link to the download files directly, or rehost them on another server. I do this out of love, and want to see people coming here for the information and resources that I (and others) have worked hard to achieve. Also, I may need to update and move files around a bit. And the 0.00000001p I might get from adverts doesn’t really work if people don’t visit here. I’ve had one or two PayPal Donations – one for $150 from one of the v2 developers a while ago! – which is really nice, especially from people who bought Sifteos (often second hand) only to discover that the web site NEEDED to activate the software is long gone. This site is for them, and now for you! However, it costs me £00s per year to keep hosting these files, and this blog, so If you feel the need, please consider donating 🙂

Right, let’s see what we’ve got done already…

What we’ve got so far?
As I flesh out these pages, they will provide more specific support material for playing and making Sifteo Games. Right now, there are just some (very useful) download links.

STOP PRESS (see at the top of the page for more details) – We now have new streamlined installers for both types of cube for Windows; Mac to follow 🙂

  • PC and Mac* software set ups to play v1 and v2 Sifteo games in emulation, or on hardware if you are lucky enough to have them 🙂 PC SiftRunner (V1) installer (NEW installer, as of May 2020, with all the v1 games included*, and a nice DOT bat file installer:-) | Mac SiftRunner (V1) Installer | PC Sifteo Sync (V2) installer (NEW installer, as of May 2020, with all the v2 games included*, and a nice DOT bat file installer:-) | Mac Sifteo Sync (V2) installer [NOTE: These will need a few tweaks to get running properly, as the verification server disappeared (see below)] [NOTE: The NEW installer batch file takes care of all of this now 🙂 and I am hoping to do the same for Mac owners, once I have my hands on a new enough machine to check the latest OS issues, reported to me few months ago. Mac users will need to download the games separately, for now (see below)]
  • All the available V1 games* that were first party published, including the hacks (preference or registry files) needed to run the above software offline+, thanks to David and Eric at Sifteo, who very kindly donated what they had: All the V1 games released (and PC registry hack for SiftRunner) PC games now included in the installer above | All the V1 Games* released (and Mac hack)^ | All the V1 Games* unpacked ready for the Siftulator (PC and Mac) [The latter of these links is primarily of use to people who want to just run the simulator, called Siftulator, as it requires art assets to be defined in order to run properly, which isn’t possible with the packaged Apps; these were decompressed using the AppPackager tool, available in the PC only version of the V1 SDK. NO idea why this wasn’t a thing for Mac developers 🙁 unfortunately.]
  • All the available V2 games* that were first party published, including the hacks (preference or registry files) needed to run the above software offline+, thanks to David and Eric at Sifteo, who very kindly donated what they had: All the V2 Games released (and PC registry hack for Sifteo Sync) PC games now included in the installer above | All the V2 games released (and Mac hack) [NOTE: In February 2017, I noticed that some of the v2 ‘brochure’ files, which provide background/instructions when viewed inside Sync, are missing. (This is one of the ways I knew that the Joyscube people took my reverse engineering work, without proper attribution; see Stop Press above, but it has all worked out, in the end.)  As of May 2020, I have now tracked all of these down, and will be posting a revised version of this archive at some point in the near future.  here: In the meantime, I will be writing a “How to…” fix the files post, as it is useful to know if adding your own, or homebrew, games to the convenient Sifteo Synch software, which is MUCH nicer to run than ‘swiss’, the command line executable. There are no unpacked or disassembled versions of the V2 games, as they are compressed as .elf files. However, if you can help us to reverse engineer the compression method, we’d love to be able to look at/reuse the V2 game assets; personally, I’d really like to try implementing some of the V2 only games on V1, so that everyone can share them. However, unlike the V1 Siftulator, this one is more sophisticated, and can run games by double clicking the files, which works really well.]

* I was given permission to upload the commercially released Sifteo games by the IP owners, but all rights are reserved, and theirs, even if they do only make drones now! Please don’t upload these elsewhere, or think that they are public domain – Joyscube people take note – or that I have any claims of ownership. It was very good of David Merrill to give us all access to these games, and we should not abuse that privilege. Thank you…
+ Getting the Apps to run offline involved the most hacking for this project. It is an interesting story in itself, which I will tell on a separate page, sometime.
^ Alternatively, use Daniel Owsiański’s Sifteo v1 redux for Mac, which allows you to install SiftRunner, an already hacked preference file and all of the version one games that we have; most if not all of them 🙂
Incomplete, or coming soon…

How long?
Now!!! All this has taken months of reverse engineering, trawling through the darker edges of the Internet, and ruthless eBay purchases. However, having now cracked the Mac version of the software (for v1 at least) both PC and Mac versions of both V1 and V2 software, we will be going live by the end of January 2017 went live in early February 2017. All the usual suspects (i.e. reddit) will be have been informed. Thanks for your patience. As of May 2020, in light of the re-release (?) of the Joyscube version of Sifteo cubes (with added Bluetooth, which IS cool!), I feel it is right to have done an update. Getting my domain back from cyber squatters was an expensive, but interesting, story for another time!!!

Given that I am going to talk at EMF Camp it is likely that there will be renewed interest in this, and I can afford to spend some Summer time working on more updates!

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38 thoughts on “Sifteo – Resurrecting a Legend”

  1. Dear Dr. Mike Reddy,

    Sorry to leave a message here since your article “SIFTEO – RESURRECTING A LEGEND” doesn’t open “leave a comment”.

    I would like to ask some questions about installation and development about Sifteo Cubes V2.0 to you.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Best regards,

  2. Dr. Mike. I stumped across the sifteo resurrection project after dusting off the sifteo set I bought at a maker faire a few years ago (when it was new). I’m not really super saavy with terminal things, and I’m hoping you can point me to somewhere I can get a more basic introduction to setting up the SDK so I can perhaps load in some third party elf files and possibly play around with the development of my own simple files.

    I was able to get the sifteo sdk to load, and used this site

    to try to use swiss to load a file, but it didn’t recognize the swiss command, so I was kind of at a stopping place. Love any guidance and good on you for keeping this cool product in play.

  3. Great work getting this up [SIFTEO].
    (I have a set of the V1 cubes, 6 of them)

    Some additional details for replacing the S-10-21 or whatever it is in the registry for each person trying to install things would be helpful. (Copy and paste specific value back into .reg file is also much easier than adding the reg keys and elements. Then just double click the reg file to add everything automatically)

    For the games, it was not super clear about adding the user folder and where to do it. (I obviously figured it out… but I am a research developer and this is part of my knowledge)

    If you would like a video made of the process so that you can post as instructions to others just let me know. I would be glad to help in the process.

    I love to keep old things alive and well.

    1. Sorry for the late reply. I tend to get these requests for help via reddit or direct email. I have found a way to streamline the regedit process, but you are correct in saying that the specific reg folder needs editing. The new simpler way is to look in current user hkeys to edit the entries that allow siftRunner and Sifteo Sync to work. There is a read me file that explains that you might have to edit the file with the right folder, and also explains where to put the game files, but maybe you didn’t find that?

      1. Sorry for the delay in responding; due to an ISP error the domain was not renewed when it should have been, and I’ve been fighting ever since to get the domain name back
        Fortunately, all fixed now. I am not sure what ‘update’ you have done; it would help to know what OS you are running too. I will also revisit the instructions, after doing a clean install on my Windows 10 machine, to see if anything has broken. I’ve been informed that latest build of MacOS has caused issues with my ‘hack’ and so it is possible that the same may have happened for Win10.

  4. Hey Mike,
    I have not had any success getting Sifteo Sync (v2 cubes) to recognize the game library either on Windows or Mac. I’ve followed the directions in the .zip files to the letter, and in both cases, the client starts up logged in as “nobody@” as expected, but there’s no games in the library. Any pointers?

    1. Hi Andrew,
      Sorry for the delay in responding; due to an ISP error the domain was not renewed when it should have been, and I’ve been fighting ever since to get the domain name back 🙁
      Fortunately, all fixed now. So, my guess is that you have not put the game files in the correct location. I will revisit the instructions, after doing a clean install on my Windows 10 machine, to see if anything has broken. I’ve been informed that latest build of MacOS has caused issues with my ‘hack’ and so it is possible that the same may have happened for Win10.

  5. Thomas wrote:
    “Hello from America! Long story but thanks for this resource. I just need Mac help adding games to the library. Any tips?”

    From their message, hopefully this means that they have the software installed on a Mac. Not sure which though – Siftrunner (v1 rechargeable cubes) or SifteoSync (v2 AAA batteries and base station) – so it’s important to tell me what cube version, Computer OS, and what has been managed to get done successfully.

    My guess (if the software is running) is either the Mac hack to get it to use the fake account, or where to put the game files, after the software has run once. I’ve emailed Thomas to ask for more information, and to say thanks for the donation 🙂 When I hear back, I’ll add the solution here for other Mac users.

  6. I just found my sifteo cubes in a box in the garage, and they seem to charge up and everything. I’m impressed by your detective work and grateful for the compilation and hosting of the files. Pardon my ignorance however, I’m stuck at the login screen on Siftrunner. I feel like I’m missing something painfully obvious.

    1. HI,
      If you are seeing the login screen you need to apply the batch file (assuming you are on PC) that will install hidden stuff and add a registry entry, which will allow the software to work.

  7. Hi
    I inherited some cubes at my school, and as the teacher tech guy I’ve been asked to get them running. I’ve downloaded your Siftrunner software, ran the installer and the bat file but still no luck with connecting with the cubes. Is there a step by step guide that can help?

    1. Hi Mike,
      I’ve moved your message to the Sifteo page, as that seems to be the most appropriate place. Can you give me details of which version of the cubes you have; the v1 cubes can be charged in their case, while the v2 cubes need AAA batteries, and have a base to run the games instead of the a computer. If you have the latter, you need Sifteo Sync instead. If the former, have you plugged the dongle into the computer? What operating system is it running?

  8. Can V2 games run on V1 cubes? I have just managed to get hold of 6 V1 cubes for a really good price.

      1. I thought as much, do you know how to open the original cubes, I have got 6 and all the batteries are dead, if I knew how to open them without breaking them I could easily change the lipo’s.

    1. No.they are different. V1 base a host OS command the cubes display something.and V2 are standalone working with its own OS.

  9. Hi. I believe I have V2 cubes as I do not have a dongle. The base is making noise, but my cubes are not coming on. What do I need to do?

    1. I guess the first thing to do is check the batteries, in all the cubes and the base. Also, if you can connect the base to a computer running SifteoSync, to make sure it is functioning. You might need to reset it and resync the cubes. Without further info, it is hard to advise further

    2. Hi Jason, due to Covid (amongst other things :’-( this last year) I missed this question. Firstly, make sure that the batteries in the cubes are really fresh. Same for the base. Then a little more info on what sound the base station is making might be useful

  10. Hi, I’ve had a set of these since they came out (in fact my wife had them shipped over to the UK well before they were available over here, as a present to me), however the dongle went missing years ago. I’ve had an eBay saved search running for the last couple of years just in case one turns up and I could get them working again, but there’s never been a lone dongle, and all the sets have been pretty expensive. Eventually, though, a set of six with dongle went on at a mistake of a price and I snapped them up! So I now have 12 v1 Sifteos and a working dongle 🙂
    And your website and excellent effort to resurrect them is an absolute godsend! They all work and I now have access to all of the games that were written for the cubes (no where near as many as there should have been, of course).
    Unfortunately I realise the software can’t connect 12 cubes at once, so I now have a set spare. Is there a source of dongles you’re aware of? I’d love to pass the Sifteo gift on to someone else as well 🙂

    Chris D (@DeadFleshRetro)

    1. Hi Chris,
      Sadly, the dongles are still a mystery to crack. I believe they are simple Bluetooth style dongles, but the specific type seems to be tied to the software; without a fuller disassembly of the code, it might not be possible to easily replace them. I am aware that the original cube limit of six – 12 for the second variant – may just be a software decision, based on performance, but reverse engineering would be required to increase it; and the decision to stick to six cubes might either be a hardware bottleneck, or so affect performance, that it might not be worth it. The official games only support six anyway. It is worth having spares TBH, as I managed to destroy one of the newer ones, accidentally leaving an old battery in it, when I’m normally so careful. If you want games with more cubes, the second gen ones are still in production, marketed as Joyscube, as well as eBay, etc

  11. Hi, I am cleaning up and I found a set of 3 sifteo cubes, charging dock and dongle. Model No DK01. What’s the best thing to do with them? I’m not sure what generation they are.

    1. If they have a charging dock then they are version one. If you don’t want to keep them, they do go on eBay for reasonable money. Or you could donate them; give whoever this web site, so they can get them running 🙂

    1. I am hoping to reverse engineer SiftRunner using node.js to link into the dongle. It’s on the back burner, but if you have access to a PC (sorry) it still runs in Windows 10!

  12. What a great find! Every year or so, I clean out the basement room where stuff gets dumped, and every year I come across the set of 6 useless Sifteo cubes, purchased for my son’s birthday years ago, back when they first came out. Although other obsolete technology has been ruthlessly tossed out during these semi-annual basement clean-outs, I’ve never had the heart to throw out these cool devices, useless as they have been. It’s lucky I felt that way about them, because thanks to your efforts, I today fired them up, fully operational, for the first time since the Sifteo servers were shut off! Too bad my son is now 16 years old and won’t be as fascinated by “Oogor’s Day” as he was back in the day 🙂 That said, he (and I) might be inspired to try and create a game for them ourselves. Anyway, this rejuvination has ensured that the Sifteo Cubes are now safe from being discarded, and might even get used by my future grandchildren some day 🙂 I had no idea that they were commanding prices as high as $1000 (according to your article)… and here was me toying with the idea of tossing them out!

    1. My apologies for not responding sooner – Covid et al – but please don’t think they actually sell for $1000; that’s just scalpers. Generally, you can get $20-$70 for a set, depending on availability and their condition. The original cubes are starting to get fails, due to the built in batteries now. I am going to do some surgery when any of my v1 cubes die, to show how to replace the cells, but so far none of mine have died this way

      1. Thanks for getting back to me! Yes, some of our cubes are starting to show signs of battery fatigue (they deplete very quickly after charging), so will look forward to seeing your efforts when you eventually do that. Cheers, Kai.

      2. Hi Alex,
        Joyscube sell a modern reimplementation of Sifteo cubes, and they are (sort of) compatible, having essentially the same firmware, but adding BlueTooth functionality. However, they are subtly different in appearance. The only other option is to set an email alert search on eBay, which is where I got most of mine, including a few broken ones for spares and to disassemble. Hope that helps!

      3. Mark Ding (behind the Kickstarter and IndiGoGo campaigns) might be able to help with Joyscube purchases, as their web site is down right now; I suspect it didn’t sell well enough 🙁 and “third times the charm” didn’t work out. His publicly email for queries is

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Dr. Mike Reddy