Spools of Thread for 6,400 Pixel Color Display

This is not an LED display, it’s a thread display. The hardware artists over at Breakfast, a Brooklyn based rapid product and prototype company, built this color display that uses spools of thread for each pixel. 6,400 spools to be exact.

Serious work went into this thing, and the results couldn’t be better. Check out the video after the break to see for yourself. The trick is to increase the surface area of the spools of thread. This is done by using the spool as a pulley which guides a 5.5 foot length of “threaded fabric”. Up close, the fabric looks as if it’s just wrapped around the wooden spool, but the extra length provides enough room for 36 different colors, each blending into the next in a gradient effect. Index the location of the fabric in each pixel system and you have a wide range of color options.

The piece was commissioned by clothing retailer Forever 21 and has even been given its own website. The display pulls Instagram photos with the #F21threadscreen hashtag and displays them. You can watch a live stream for the next week, and the dedicated site has a search feature to find a recording of your own photo by username.

We must once again give credit for producing the kind of advertising we want to see. This is both interesting and awesome. It gave some talented people work producing it, and sharing the details of the build is both interesting and inspiring for us. Want to see some more interesting advertising like this? Check out that Beck’s bottle used as a phonograph cylinder, and the extreme engineering used to separate Oreos.

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What It Means to Be a Product

We’re not giving away a prize. We’re making it your priority to share hard-earned knowledge. On August 17th we’ll start testing the Best Products. Ten will be recognized as finalists, one will be awarded $100,000 but everyone will benefit.

We want to highlight a set of amazing products. These are well-built designs that deserve recognition for doing the extra 90% of work involved in designing for production. This has not traditionally been the fun or sexy part of product development, but that will change.

What does it mean to be a product? Engineering something to be manufactured and sold is a different ball game compared to going from a concept to a working prototype. This is often the downfall of the crowd funding campaign. You were prepared to hammer out 100 units with your friends in someone’s basement. Oops, you now have 1400 backers and have overshot the point at which your plans could work. If properly engineered, a product can be scaled without completely redesigning it.

This is where we are right now. The barriers for having a professionally fabbed PCB made are completely non-existant. But the barriers for making that small-run PCB proof-of-concept into a product are still formidable. We’re changing that and you’re the key to it all. It starts by sharing great examples of how these problems are being overcome. Start-ups should be leading the way, pollinating this information by talking about your experience, your ideas, and your vision.

Write about your successes, failures, and solutions. Show us what happened during the evolution of your product and secure the title of Best Product.

[Photo Credit: Hilmers Studios Technical Illustrations]


Submit your entry for Best Product before 8/17/15. Don’t forget to opt-in for best product by using the “Submit-to Best Product” option on the left sidebar of your project page. Qualifying entries which have sent in three working beta-test units by the entry deadline will be considered for the Best Product prizes. See the entries so far and drop into our live chat at 6:00 PDT Today.

Childhood Tech Exposure Is Slowly Killing The Keyboard

I see the disturbing trend of moving away from keyboards as input devices — and I’m talking about a real, physical keyboard. This isn’t a matter of one decision that kills the keyboard, but an aggregate that is slowly changing the landscape. If you blink, you’ll miss it. We will not find ourselves in a world without keyboards, but in one where most of the available keyboards suck.

Rise of the Virtual Keyboard Generation

Is swipe-style keying the future of coding?
Is swipe-style keying the future of coding?

Tablets are great for screwing around, but when you want to get real work done in a reasonable amount of time, you grab a physical keyboard. In this scenario I don’t see the problem being those in the workforce going away from keyboards; it’s how the younger generations are learning to interact with technology that is troubling. The touchscreen is baby’s first computer. Families gather and the kids are handed their parent’s tablets while the grown-ups watch the game. More and more schools are outfitting classrooms with tablets, and for this I’m an advocate. Getting kids involved early in technology is imperative; knowledge evolves much more rapidly than printed textbooks. The tablet is a powerful tool in both of these areas. But most of the screen time kids get is with touchscreens and no physical keyboard.

How much time are K-12 kids spending in front of a physical keyboard? In the United States, if keyboard (typing) classes exist at all in a public school’s curriculum they’re usually only one-semester. Students who spend half of Elementary school using a tablet, and just one semester at a keyboard, are bound to prefer touchscreen-based entry over a physical keyboard.

Keyboard Erosion

We’ve already seen a strong push into touch-screens on laptops as the tablet market has grown. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Think of the computer mouse, it didn’t replace the keyboard, but augmented it and now is seen as a tool that itself is a necessity.

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Meetup in Boston this Thursday

Hackaday is headed to Boston this week. Meet up with us on Thursday at 6pm to show off your projects and meet other hackers in the area. Admission is free, just tell us you’re coming.

We’re hosting a Hackaday meetup at Artisan’s Asylum hackerspace. That name should sound familiar. This is the group that decided to throw down the robot gauntlet with Japan. We can’t wait to see what that’s all about first hand!

While in town we’ll also be stopping by the MIT Media Lab, a legendary den of cutting edge research that springs forth wave after wave of awesome inspiration. If you know of any projects going on there that we just shouldn’t miss please let us know below. We’re also looking for suggestions of other places we should check out while in town.

See you Thursday!

Hacker Airlines: United Awards 1M Air Miles For Vulnerability

We’re really happy to see companies getting serious about rewarding white hat hackers. The latest example of this is when [Jordan Wiens] submitted two bugs and was awarded 1,000,000 Sky Miles on United Airlines.

The bounty is so high because he uncovered a method of remote code execution which United has since patched. Unfortunately, United requires bug secrecy so we’re not getting any of the gritty details like we have for some of the recently discovered Facebook vulnerabilities. That’s really too bad because sharing the knowledge about what went wrong helps programmers learn to avoid it in the future. But we still give United a big nod for making this kind of work and responsible reporting worthwhile. [Jordan] did an AMA last night which covered some more general hacking questions.

If you want to turn your leet skills into free travel you need to be a MileagePlus member and not reside in a US sanctioned country. Details on United’s Bug Bounty page.

Nixie Tube Speedometer In Motorcycle Handlebars

The handlebars of this Honda CL175 ended up being perfect for holding two Nixie tubes which serve as the speedometer. There are two circular cavities on the front fork tree which are the same size as the Nixies. Wrapping the tubes in a bit of rubber before the installation has them looking like they are factory installed!

This isn’t a retrofit, he’s added the entire system himself. It starts with a hall effect sensor and magnets on the rear wheel and swing arm. Right now the result is 4 MPH resolution but he plans to add more magnets to improve upon that. For now, the driver and speedometer circuitry are hosted on protoboard but we found a reddit thread where [Johnathan] talks about creating a more compact PCB. If your own bike lacks the fork tree openings for this (or you need help with the drivers) check out this other Nixie build for a slick-looking enclosure idea.

The link at the top is a garage demo, but last night he also uploaded a rolling test to show the speedometer in action. Check out both videos after the break.

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Show Us Your Human Interface; Win Laser Cutting Time

Our newest Hot List is Human Interfaces. This is anything you’ve designed into your project to interact with people. And we want to see it all! Do you have something bristling with buttons, boasting many LCD screens, hosting controls organized with the principles of Feng Shui, or intuitively voice activated? Show us the user interface you’re proud of and you could win one of thirty $100 gift cards for Ponoko laser cutting service.

We’re in the thick of judging the Wheels, Wings, and Propellers hot list from this week. We’ll be announcing the rankings in the coming days, but for now you need to get your project onto the Your Human Interface hot list. Here’s what you need to do before Thursday, 7/16/15:

Good luck, and per usually we’d like to encourage you to Vote this week. It’s a great way to explore the entries in this year’s 2015 Hackaday Prize, and you just might win $1000 from the Hackaday Store just for voting!

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by: