Rolling digit clock is a wonderful piece of engineering

A long time ago and on a scrounging trip he barely remembers, [Victor] bought a quartet of digits from an old Dutch Railways clock. These antique displays used a strip of plastic coated cloth that rolls around itself with the help of a motor to display the digits 0 through 9. It’s been many years, but [Victor] finally got around to building a clock out of these single digit displays and we’re loving the results.

Because these displays were manufactured in a time when mechanical devices were king, [Victor] had to slightly modify each digit so they could display numbers with the help of a continuous rotation servo. The four servos are controlled by an Arduino – each digit changing one at a time to reduce current consumption – and a magnet and reed switch was added to each digit so the numbers could be repeatedly displayed.

Before [Victor] replaced the plastic servo gears with metal cogs, the clock was quite noisy. He’s since put each digit underneath a bell jar (actually a vase turned upside down), and we’ve got to say that [Victor] has a nice clock on his hands. Check out the videos of the clock changing digits to display the time after the break.

[Read more...]

Microsoft shows off their transparent 3D desktop prototype

We think most would agree that the Microsoft Kinect is a miraculous piece of hardware. The affordable availability of a high-quality depth camera was the genesis of a myriad of hacks. And now it seems that type of data is making an intriguing 3D display possible.

What you see above is a 3D monitor concept that Microsoft developed. It starts off looking much like a tablet PC, but the screen can be lifted up toward the user whose arms reach around it to get at the keyboard underneath. There is as depth camera that can see the hands and fingers of the user to allow manipulation of the virtual environment. But that’s only part of the problem. You need some way to align the user’s eyes with what’s on the screen. They seem to have solved that problem too, using another depth camera to track the location of the user’s head. This means that you can lean from one side to the other and the perspective of the virtual 3D desktop will change to preserve the apparent distance of each object.

Don’t miss the show-and-tell video after the break. As long as there’s only one viewer this looks like a perfect non-glasses alternative to current 3D hardware offerings. [Read more...]

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