The Flow Of Time Draws On A River


You would think Hackaday would see more projects from public art exhibitions. They really do have everything – the possibility to mount electronics to just about anything in a way that performs interesting but an ultimately useless function. So far, though, [Richard Schwartz's] Flow of Time is on the top of a very short list of public art installations we like.

The idea behind the build is a German phrase that means something similar to ‘time trickles away’. [Richard]‘s project implements this by printing the current time onto the surface of a flowing river in [Richard]‘s native Innsbruck.

The build uses five micro piezo pumps to dispense food coloring from a bridge. Every minute, an Arduino pumps this food coloring in a 5×7 pixel digit to ‘write’ the time onto the surface of a river.

Surprisingly, [Richard]‘s installation doesn’t require much upkeep. The pumps only use about 70ml of food coloring a day, and the entire device – including the Raspi WiFi webcam – is solar powered with a battery backup.

You can see a video of the time printing on a river below.


  1. aztraph says:

    it’s a neat idea, too bad the dpi sucks

  2. strider_mt2k says:

    I’d say it’s a good start, but needs work.

  3. oodain says:

    does the rig compensate for the rate of flow at the waters surface?
    it would seem like a doable idea and could perhaps limit some of the stretch that the numbers are experiencing.

    it is a great idea and i am amazed at the usage rate of food dye among other things, but as the above two posters mentioned refinement could do a lot for the general feel, i am having visions of bridge wide systems doing river wide graphics for special events, could look absolutely fantastic.

  4. Nitpicker Smartyass says:

    I am sorry, but without the (in-movie edited, not water-printed) “handwriting” of the number 15 and 31 I could hardly make out ANYTHING except for dirty spots in the water. If that is art, no wonder I “sucked” at that class in school.

  5. Rishi Arora says:

    IMHO this is ingenious and nice but should count as a fail.

  6. RP says:

    It would’ve worked better if they hadn’t chosen white-water rapids to deploy it on. Maybe it was the rainy season but a slower river would be much more effective for this.

  7. t-bone says:

    It might also be a play on words because “Fluss” (or ‘Fluß’, as I learned it) is river, too.

    • kommune78 says:

      This is right :) Zeitfluss means both the word-by-word translation of “Time river” and “Time proceeding”. I think more thought went into the creation of the title than the actual “artwork”

  8. insider says:

    About the dumbest thing I have seen. What a waste of talent and environmental impact
    Is this the best that we can do with technology

  9. Kinell du Ino says:


  10. rusty says:

    that was kinda sad.

  11. EdgarVice says:

    nominated for fail of the year

  12. vonskippy says:

    “You would think Hackaday would see more projects from public art exhibitions.”

    Please no. No, no, no, no. Definitely no. Never. No no no. No. No and NO.

    Just because there’s electronics involved, doesn’t mean it’s a good “hack”, and to date there has been zero good “art”. Save the fluff for some art site, stick to real hacker projects.

    Just say no.

    • r0r0 says:

      I absolutely vote for more art projects on Hack a Day, as good art is always inspiring.
      Just think of Jürg Lehni’s “Hektor” ( ) – so many hackers have built interesting plotters and drawing machines by making variations of his original design.

      And I would also like to see more artworks (or non art projects) with interesting technical approaches on HaD which do not use electronics. Hacking is not limited to electronics. A good and popular example in my opinion would be Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests ( ).

      But I also think that art projects are very often carried out in a very lazy way. With two more weeks of developing time, it would have probably been possible to display the time on the river in a readable way.

  13. Gronk says:

    This needs to be switched to fail of the week.

  14. Chris C. says:

    If I saw this in real life without foreknowledge of what it is, since the numbers are completely unintelligible, I’d assume it’s a machine that’s just unintentionally leaking oil periodically.

  15. KleenexCommando says:

    If you can predict and compensate for the randomness of surface turbulence on the surface of a free flowing body of water to the point this will ever actually work and be readable – I’m sure there is some sort of lofty science prize and a crapload of cash coming your way…

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