May 25, 2009


Son Shiva

Here's another one you can see at Maker Faire. This one I made a while ago from six disk drive head actuators that are triggered in different sequences. Pressing a button on the game controller triggers one of eight sequences.

Here's a crisper picture:
son Shiva

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May 23, 2009


Rotation Simulator

Something else just up as a preview for Maker Faire 2009: the Rotation Simulator.

This is a kinetic artwork that digitally simulates rotation and inertia. Turning the knob sequentially triggers eight solenoids arranged in a circle, giving the impression of rotation. The speed and direction is proportional to the knob rotation, and exponential decay simulates rotational friction mimicking an actual rotating object. However the only thing actually rotating is the knob! The LEDs are used as flyback diodes and flash when the magnetic field in the solenoid is switched off.

Here are the guts for those interested in the geeky stuff. As usual, follow the link for an annotated descriptions.

Inside Rotation Simulator

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May 20, 2009



Well, this was supposed to be a weekend hack. Only it took a few months. In any case, it's kind of working now! What is it? It's a light printer that uses an array of UV LEDs mechanically scanned across phosphorescent paper, leaving a matrix of glowing dots that slowly fade. Hence "ghostmatrix." I scavenged the linear motor from SRL discard pile, and used an Adafruit Mini POV3 with custom software as the light engine. Here's a video of the beast in action:

Ultimately I want to hook this up so it will print tweets. Not there yet, but it will be @ghostmatrix on Twitter. Need to figure out how to get DMs or @replies into an RSS feed, or just buckle down and use the API.

Here's a closeup of the business end. Follow the link to see the labeled parts.
Ghostmatrix motor stage and print head

And for you geeks, here's the Frankensteined driver board. I thought it would be easier to reuse the existing board (only need access to 6 signals) but tracing wires on the autorouted multiple-layer board was the very definition of a PITA.
ghostmatrix driver boards

I should give credit where it's due; I used the "Atari-Small" 8x4 font from Tom's X11 Fonts and the spiffing Python bdflib font manipulation library.

UPDATE: some more information about parts and sources: the phosphorescent paper is
Grafix "Funky glow In the Dark" and a web search should get you the source. The lightpipes were (if I recall correctly) purchased from If they are still available I could not find a part number, but a similar (if shorter and more expensive) product is this:



Ripple Matrix

This is a recent interactive artwork I'm just getting around to documenting. I showed it at the "TV of Tomorrow" conference in April.

This work is a 8 x 15 array of full-color LEDs, driven by an embedded Linux board. Each LED is addressable, and optical sensors make the work interactive if you touch it. I'm running a digital simulation of the 2-dimensional wave equation. Think of water in the bathtub: it's quiescent when not disturbed. However triggering an optical sensor does the digital equivalent of throwing a rock in a pool: it disturbs the initial conditions, and sends ripples propagating away.


May 15, 2009


My bitchin' coffee table

My bitchin' coffee table
My bitchin' coffee table

This is a coffee table I built from a salvaged Textronix 7704A oscilloscope mainframe I pulled from a dumpster. A sheet of glass on top and a wooden frame complete the table. (I added the frame because I kept bumping my shin on the invisible glass!)

Though I had hopes of resurrecting the scope (originally a 5-figure piece of quality test equipment), it had sat in the rain for a little too long. The PSU in particular had about 14 different output voltages, some of them high, and was completely fried. So I removed some shielding to expose the beautiful insides and made it into a bitchin' coffee table.

My bitchin' coffee table (closeup)


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