Ferrofluid Clock is a Work of Art

It is not usually too difficult to separate functionality from art. Consider a clock. It’s a machine that has a clear and distinct function. It provides information. Nothing could be more different from a clock on a wall than a piece of artwork.  A painting, for instance has no clear function and provides no information. It’s just…art. It’s nice to look at. If we were to ask you to build a functioning, information providing clock that is also a piece of artwork, you would surely have your hands full. Where would you even start? If your name was [Zelf Koelma], you’d grab a bottle of ferrofluid and build us a beautiful, almost mesmerizing clock.

clock_01There’s little to no information on the details of how the clock works other than the use of ferrofluid. But it’s not hard to guess that it uses dozens of electromagnets and an Arduino. You can even pick one up for a cool $8,300 if you’re lucky enough to get a spot on the list, as he’s only making 24 of them.

Want to make one of your own? Pick up some ferrofluid and keep us updated. We’d love to hear from you in the comments on how you’d implement a build like this one. We had a fun time hearing your ideas when we covered the clock made of clocks.

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Growing Copper and Silver Crystals for Art

Usually when Hackaday covers electroplating techniques, it’s to talk about through-hole PCB plating. But did you know you can use the same method to produce beautiful copper and silver crystal structures?

[Fred and Connie Libby] are kind enough to share how they make their crystals that they sell in tiny glass vials you can wear around your neck. The process is simple as you would think; it’s just an electrolyte solution, with a current passing through it, depositing the metal in an ion-exchange. Rather then stop once the part is sufficiently covered, you let the process run amok, and soon large crystal formations begin to emerge. [Fred and Connie] share their technique very briefly, so if you’re looking for a more detailed how-to guide, you can find one here.

Although silver crystals are a bit out of our budget, we wonder how large of a copper crystal could be grown? Large enough to be displayed on a coffee table? Surely such a work of art and science could be an interesting conservation piece in any hacker’s home.

“Arduino Borealis” Combines LEDs and Paint

[Stef Cohen] decided to combine three different artistic mediums for her latest project. Those are painting, electronics, and software. The end goal was to recreate the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights, in a painting.

The first step was to make the painting. [Stef] began with a shadow box. A shadow box is sort of like a picture frame that is extra deep. A snowy scene was painted directly onto the front side of the glass plate of the shadow box using acrylic paint. [Stef] painted the white, snowy ground along with some pine trees. The sky was left unpainted, in order to allow light to shine through from inside of the shadow box. A sheet of vellum paper was fixed to the inside of the glass pane. This serves to diffuse the light from the LEDs that would eventually be placed inside the box.

Next it was time to install the electronics. [Stef] used an off-the-shelf RGB LED matrix from Adafruit. The matrix is configured with 16 rows of 32 LEDs each. This was controlled with an Arduino Uno. The LED matrix was mounted inside the shadow box, behind the vellum paper. The Arduino code was easily written using Adafruit’s RGB Matrix Panel library.

To get the aurora effect just right, [Stef] used a clever trick. She took real world photographs of the aurora and pixelated them using Photoshop. She could then sample the color of each pixel to ensure that each LED was the appropriate color. Various functions from the Adafruit library were used to digitally paint the aurora into the LED matrix. Some subtle animations were also included to give it an extra kick.

RIP: HitchBot

Equal parts art project and social media experiment, with a dash of backyard hackery “robotics” thrown in for good measure, hitchBot was an experiment in the kindness of strangers. That is, the kindness of strangers toward a beer bucket filled with a bunch of electronics with a cute LED smiley face.

The experiment came to a tragic end (vandalism, naturally) in Philadelphia PA, after travelling a month across Canada, ten days in Germany, and yet another month across the Netherlands. It survived two weeks in the USA, which is more than the cynics would have guessed, but a few Grand Canyons short of the American Dream.

Professors [David Smith] and [Frauke Zeller] built hitchBot to see how far cuteness and social media buzz could go. [Smith], a former hitchhiker himself, also wanted hitchBot to be a commentary on how society’s attitudes toward hitching and public trust have changed since the 70s. Would people would pick it up on the side of the street, plug it in to their own cigarette lighters, and maybe even take it to a baseball game? Judging by hitchBot’s Twitter feed, the answer was yes. And for that, little bucket, we salute you!

But this is Hackaday, and we don’t pull punches, even for the recently deceased. It’s not clear how much “bot” there was in hitchBot. It looks like it had a GPS, batteries, and a solar cell. We can’t tell if it took its own pictures, but the photos on Twitter seem to be from another perspective. It had enough brains inside to read out Wikipedia entries and do some rudimentary voice recognition tasks, so it was a step up from Tweenbots but was still reassuringly non-Terminator.

Instead, hitchBot had more digital marketing mavens and social media savants on its payroll than [Miley Cyrus] and got tons of press coverage, which seems to have been part of the point from the very start. And by writing this blog post, we’re playing right into [Smith] and [Zeller]’s plan. If you make a robot / art project cute enough to win the hearts of many, they might just rebuild it. [Margaret Atwood] has even suggested on Twitter that people might crowdfund-up a hitchBot 2.0.

Our suggestion? Open-source the build plans, and let thousands of hitchBots take its place.

Artificial Killing Machine

L.A. artist [Jonathan Fletcher Moore] sent us this fantastic tech-art piece on dehumanization and drone warfare. Talking too much about art is best left to the artists, so we’ll shut up and let you watch the video below the break.

artificial_killing_machine_0011_800The piece is essentially a bunch of old cap guns with servos that pull their triggers. A Raspberry Pi with an Internet connection fetches data on US drone strikes from www.dronestre.am and fires off a cap every time someone is killed. At the same time, the story version of the data is printed out in thermal paper that cascades onto the floor.

Viewers are encouraged to sit underneath all the cap guns and wait. Talk about creepy and suspenseful. And a tiny reflection of the everyday fears that people who live under drone-filled skies.

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Billy Club Texts Your Mother if you Hit Someone

Mama, just killed hit a man, Put a gun against his head, Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead.
Mama, life had just begun, But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away…

This latest piece of half-art / half-prototype from one of our favorite hacker-artists [vtol] is a billy club equipped with a GSM-module. It automatically sends an SMS to your mother with the text: “Mom, I hit a man.” He calls it the Antenna:

The idea of the project is to create a device which strictly controls the cruelty of police. As all the standard methods of control are ineffective, this project suggests the maternity as the last stronghold of human kindness and responsibility.

An Arduino is equipped with a piezo sensor to detect impact, and a GSM shield takes care of the texting. It’s an interesting concept, similar to requiring police officers to wear body cameras. You can debate the practicality, but we’re always interested in hearing about weapons monitoring tech concepts. One of our favorites has always been the DNA gun from (Judge) Dredd. Did you know there was an Internet Movie Firearms Database? But we digress, check out [vtol’s] demo video:

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Give me a Welder and Rod Stock and I’ll Build you the World

Metal fabrication is a an art that often goes under appreciated. The ability to take common stock in the form of sheet, pipe (square or round), and in this case rod, and make it into anything is intoxicating for the artist and super villain inside of each of us. Recently [asciiArtVandaly] took on an interesting job and was thoughtful enough to make a photo album of the process. He literally created the world out of metal.

The build is a wire-frame globe. The latitude and longitude rods are rolled to the proper arc, but holding them in place is a bit of a trick. This image shows the welding jig built just for this project. It has large and small nobs to match the increasing spacing of the rods, with washers holding down ever other joint. If you want to see an example of rod-rolling check out the unrelated How It’s Made segment found after the break.

This jig is visually stunning to look at, but the math used to lay something like this out is only mildly interesting compared to the work done to add the continents to the piece. Each of these were cut out and then hand hammered to match the curve of the globe before being welded in place and outfitted with lighting for cities. That’s a skill you can’t get without a lot of practice — and get this, [asciiArtVandalay] does it as a hobby. Who knew robot engineers needed hobbies?

The finished globe is about eighty pounds of stainless steel. The build ends up being corporate art for a company sure to turn [Tyler Durden’s] eye.

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