Once Sam is introduced into the games he defeats a couple of combatants and is then paired with Rinzler. Just as the battle begins Clu begins manipulating two orbs in his hand.

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Is Clu controlling Rinzler or manipulating the game grid with these devices?

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    I took them just as like those Chinese relaxation balls... though he did seem to switch the gravity in the cell by switching which direction he was rolling them. – eidylon Jan 13 '12 at 16:49

The real-word name of those is baoding balls. They are not explicitly named anywhere on promotional material, so their name in the Tron universe is mysterious.

So, Clu only grabs those balls when Sam starts the final battle with Rinzler in the Disc Wars.
He starts turning them in his hand, stops suddenly, and then starts turning them in the opposite direction. As soon as he does that, the gravity on the arena switches sides.

So yes, he manipulates the game grid, but we don't know for sure if he is only able to manipulate gravity with them. There's some speculation that he also uses them to control Rinzler, as he seems to activate when Clu start to roll the balls. Maybe Clu could control the speed and/or aggressiveness of Rinzler by modifying the speed at which he rolls the balls. However, the first time Clu switches gravity, Rinzler turns his head to look at some control plate that is rotating, so he is not advised automatically of Clu's commands on gravity. Anyway, we also saw Rinzler obey a verbal command from Clu, so if they control him, they are optional.

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  • +1 I've always got the impression they were just for the gravity and Rinzler was reacting to changes as they happened (but faster than Sam since he was expecting them). – Windle Jul 20 '12 at 22:32

The use of Baoding Balls in the scene is likely meant to convey to the audience that CLU is currently in control of the world that Sam has found himself in, even if there is not a direct obviousness to how exactly it works.

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  • 'likely meant', 'not a direct obviousness' ... Sounds speculative. Can you provide more explicit basis/explanation for this opinion ? – Stan Feb 26 '14 at 20:21
  • Think of it this way -- Sam is our narrator, and thus is the personification of us exploring the Tron world. He is the relateable everyman who's been thurst into The Grid, and as he learns about the world, so do we. We have yet to see CLU's face, but it's obvious that there is something different about him -- he has new colors that contrast to Sam's and to the 'evil' red guards, he's taken a position of overseeing and power. Cutting back and forth between the calm rotating balls and the hectic game, again, conveys a sense that "this character is in control and wields power." – Matt Feb 26 '14 at 20:49

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