JOLED – a 3D Flip Dot Display

Flip-Dot displays are so awesome that they’re making a comeback. But awesome is nothing when you can have an insane flip-dot display that is three-dimensional with the dots floating in mid-air. Researchers at the Universities of Sussex and Bristol have built what they call JOLED, an array of floating pixels that can be controlled via a combination of ultrasonic standing waves and an electrostatic field. These “voxels” can be individually moved in space via ultrasonics, and can also be individually flipped or rotated through any angle, via the electrostatic field.

The key to the whole thing is something they call Janus Objects – hence JOLED. Janus particles have different features or chemistry on two opposite sides. A portion of each voxel is speckled with a small amount of titanium dioxide nano powder. This gives it a bipolar charge that makes it respond to the variable electrostatic field and hence capable of axial rotation. Half of each white voxel can then be covered with a contrasting color – red, blue, black – to achieve the flip dot effect. Each voxel appears to be a couple of millimeters in diameter. The ultrasonic actuators appear to be regular piezo transmitters found in every hacker’s parts bin. Transparent glass plates on opposite sides apply the variable electrostatic field.

While this is still experimental and confined to the research lab, future applications would be interesting. It would be like breaking e-ink displays out of their flat glass confines and giving them a third dimension. The short, two-minute video after the break does a good job of explaining what’s going on, so check it out. Now, who want’s to be the first to build a JOLED clock?

Thanks to [Garrow] for tipping us off about this.

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Flip Dot Displays Appear with Modernized Drivers

Admit it, you’ve always wanted to have your own flip-dot display to play with. Along with split-flap displays, flip-dots have an addictive look and sound that hearkens back half a century but still feels like modern technology. They use a magnetic coil to actuate each pixel — physical discs painted contrasting colors on either side. It means that you really only need electricity when changing the pixel, and that each pixel makes a satisfyingly unobtrusive click when flipped. The only problem with the displays is that they’re notoriously difficult to get your hands on.

flipdotBreakfast, a Brooklyn-based hardware firm known for creative marketing installations, unveiled their Flip-Disc Display System this morning. Used displays have come up on the usual sites from time to time, but often without a controller. Traditional flip-dot manufacturers haven’t sought out the individual hacker or hackerspace, and a click-to-buy option has been difficult if not impossible to find.

Breakfast’s offering modernizes the driver used to manage all of those electro-mechanical pixels. Whether this will make the displays more accessible is a question that still needs to be answered.
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The Giant Flip-Dot Display at CES

Flip-dot displays are grand, especially this one which boasts 74,088 pixels! I once heard the hardware compared to e-ink. That’s actually a pretty good description since both use a pixel that is white on one side and black on the other, depend on a coil to change state, and only use electricity when flipping those bits.

What’s remarkable about this is the size of the installation. It occupied a huge curving wall on the ooVoo booth at 2015 CES. We wanted to hear more about the hardware so we reached out to them they didn’t disappoint. The ooVoo crew made time for a conference call which included [Pat Murray] who coordinated the build effort. That’s right, they built this thing — we had assumed it was a rental. [Matt Farrell] recounts that during conception, the team had asked themselves how an HD video chat for mobile company can show off display technology when juxtaposed with cutting edge 4k and 8k displays? We think the flip-dot was a perfect tack — I know I spent more time looking at this than at televisions.

Join us after the break for the skinny on how it was built, including pictures of the back side of the installation and video clips that you have to hear to believe.

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Converting a Flip-dot display to work like Core Memory

flip-dot-display-as-core-memory

It’s always interesting to see what will come out of a hacker meet-up. At the Observe, Hack, Make festival earlier this month [Bertho] was talking to a guy named [Erik] about how flip-dot displays work. [Erik] mentioned that the control theory is the same as core memory. So when [Bertho] got back to his home workshop he started playing around with it to see if a flip dot display can be made to behave exactly like core memory.

We’re really glad a successor to core memory was found since it’s pretty slow. But the concept still makes for some fun exploration (here’s the obligatory Arduino implementation of core memory). It uses magnetic rings with two conductors running through them that pass at right angles to each other. Sound familiar? This is exactly how flip-dot displays work.

There are, of course, some differences. The biggest one being that the displays don’t have the sense wire present in core memory. That was an easy enough thing for [Bertho] to get around. He added the grey sense wire by threading it through the inside of the hardware. The other hurdle he had to overcome was to alter the controller firmware to match the destructive tendency of core memory (reading the state also resets it).

So far he’s just set this up as a proof of concept, reading the sense wire while repetitively reading and writing to the “memory”. But it’s engaging to see what was captured on the scope. We asked him about his future plans, specifically what he would use to automatically read from the sense wire. His response is found after the jump.

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Flip-dot display is an advertising experience we can get behind

This huge and mesmerizing interactive display is just a big piece of advertising. It is a flip-dot display. Each pixel is a mechanical disk, white on one side and black on the other. The team over at BreakfastNY hacked the display modules and wrote their own software so that it can be refreshed with lighting quickness. To the left you can see the high contrast text, but on the right it’s showing the camera-based interactivity. A few seconds later this gentleman sweeps his arm to the side and all the pixels scatter as if blown away by a forceful wind. You might as well just skip down to the video after the break right now.

The display is an advertisement for a new show on the TNT network called Perception. We’ve got to say, if you’re going to advertise this is the way to do it. Make something cool, then share the details. We get to enjoy the clickity-clack of all those dots flipping into place and they got us to at least recognize the network and say the name of the show. Everyone wins.

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