Illuminated moveable type

[Rob Stewart] put in a lot of time and built this lighted display at great expense. It displays four letter words using a word association algorithm to pick the next term to show. What interests us is the motorized display. It is made up of fluorescent tubes but they’re not fixed in place. Each can be rotated, as well as moved along a linear path to form any letter in the alphabet. Check out [Rob's] build logs for the details on how he pulled it all together.

[Thanks Hugo via Engadget and Switched]


  1. twobee says:

    Typo I believe, seems to be “Rob Seward” not “Rob Stewart” this assumption is based on the URL.

  2. twobee says:

    Amazing work however :)

  3. M4CGYV3R says:

    That’s really cool as an art project or an engineering thesis, but it seems incredibly impractical for any real display.

    It would be cool to see how the word combinations change with the addition of each letter, like the words you can make with 4 letters, versus 5, then 6.

  4. grotesktypelover says:

    Utterly useless… I LOVE IT!

  5. Frogz says:

    crap rape apes pest kill hunt suck lick spit chew bite hurt

    who wants to crap rape an ape??

  6. Arkenklo says:

    I love how some of the tubes stutter and shiver, and I love how they light up before they begin to move into position. Very sci fi. Mad kudos.

    Some day, I want to build something this awesome.

  7. LM says:

    crap rape apes;Suck, lick, spit… Is it me or it all just sounds all wrong?

  8. nubie says:

    Damn, I wish the movie Moon had one of these as well as all the other cool stuff. Maybe not quite right for that movie.

    Seriously under-rated movie, very cool.

  9. emilio says:

    it’s beautiful.

    it’s also arguably a Rube Goldberg machine, because what more mundane task is there than writing one word?

  10. utf8 says:

    Bah, it can’t even display “über”! Seriously though, this is really cool.

  11. sneakypoo says:

    What a fucking pointless waste of time and effort. Yet… I bloody love it :D

  12. Perry says:

    That is the worst method of displaying text ever, Yet i want one so badly. its stunning

  13. lukus says:

    One of the most creative hacks I have ever seen. Kudos

  14. Mikey says:


  15. HIrudinea says:

    I love the way it forms its letter, not just lighting up lights, but moving them, never seen somthing like that before, beautiful.

  16. JB says:

    Extremely inefficient, slow and impractical. Very cool and probably very challenging to make. Great hack!

  17. jwt says:


  18. Portblock says:

    I think this is a great display, practicle, no, but a great, artistic display, I could see one of these in the background at a Blue Man Group show.

    Perhaps as an art show, or an elegant location or such.

  19. tim says:

    ok, now add 110 letters more so you can display tweets

  20. tehgringe says:

    I thought the same thing…the way the parts move into place after they light up makes for a weird, but familiar effect.

    It sort of reminds me of those pictures/shapes made from cowds of people. UK Peeps: The old TalkTalk adverts, nay?

    Cool. Did I spy a bulb smashing early on?

  21. sm10 says:

    Was anyone else disturbed by his choice of vocabulary? The displayed words seemed… odd to say the least. Amazing display tho

  22. PidGin128 says:

    I figured it would be more apparent, that in an art context, and just in general, any “four letter word” would be somewhat loaded, so the choice of vocabulary is probably to fit that.

    I have to agree with all the above, and add: I wish I had the kind of clarity of mind to have an idea and see it through so perfectly executed.

    And yea, this is a dangerous post that needs to be removed, anyone who doesn’t understand why they shouldn’t do this shouldn’t do this… (for future searchers, re: april-01)

  23. Chris says:

    This is amazing, If this is Refined to be BIGGER bester Faster COLORS. this can be used to outfit any Music festival. If you thought about selling this as a product.

  24. Scott says:

    what song is this?

  25. blizzarddemon says:

    Fantastic. O.O

  26. Larawen says:

    I am also very interested in knowing what song was playing in the background.

  27. Larawen says:

    I emailed Rob, here is where it is from:

  28. AskJacob says:

    Hope he can sort out the jitter on those rotational servos… The bane of many servo based projects!

  29. Rob Seward says:

    Rob Seward here. Thanks for all the comments! I saw askjacob’s note and I felt like I had to chime in. I spent a week trying to eliminate the servo jitter. I was obsessed. I finally figured it could be done by wrapping the servo in tinfoil and grounding the tinfoil. However, when I started showing my prototype to friends everyone loved the jitter (go figure), so I left it in.

  30. Bob says:

    Wow… only if he spent that much time getting laid. Noble achievement but comeon man… you’re a loser.

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