Texel: Art Tracks You, Tracks Time

French robot-artist [Lyes Hammadouche]  tipped us off to one of his latest works: a collaboration with [Ianis Lallemand] called Texel. A “texel” is apparently a time-pixel, and the piece consists of eight servo-controlled hourglasses that can tip themselves over in response to viewers walking in front of them. Besides making graceful wavelike patterns when people walk by, they also roughly record the amount of time that people have spent looking at the piece — the hourglasses sit straight up when nobody’s around, resulting in a discrete spatial representation of people’s attentions to the piece: texels.

We get jealous when we see artists playing around with toys like these. Texel uses LIDAR scanners, Kalman-filtered naturally, to track the viewers. openFrameworks, OpenCV, and ROS. In short, everything you’d need to build a complex, human-interactive piece like this using completely open-source tools from beginning to end. Respect!

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Wine glass time keeper

We’ve seen a glut of time-keeping projects lately. We guess time was the original motivator for technology so we’re okay with it (but we’re not calling ourselves Clockaday quite yet). This clock, or more appropriately this timer, is a homemade hourglass that [Andrei] put together. The finished look is simple but he put some real time into its production.

The glass portion is a combination of two wine glasses. He removed the stems, ground the bottoms flat, then drilled holes to allow the sand to pass. He used plumbers putty around the top of the upturned reservoir to create a temporary bowl of water which cooled the glass during drilling. This prevented cracking by keeping the friction generated heat at bay. Working with the glass took a total of around five hours.

To assemble, he epoxied the two wine glasses together, routed out a ring in the wood bases for the lips, and used dowels to connect the two ends. [Andrei] concluded that the gentle slope at the bottom of the wine glasses is not the ideal shape as some sand can get stuck in them. Perhaps champagne flutes for his next build? At any rate, we think it’s a unique, non-automated hourglass build.

A random USB… hourglass

[Peter] thought of a creative, way to generate random entropy for under $100.

The USB Hourglass combines a sand timer with a rotating mechanism and an optical beam through the center of the timer to observe the falling sand. The amount of light reaching a detector is digitized at frequent intervals and processed by a microcontroller to determine when to rotate the hourglass. The digitized light levels are also sent by USB to a host PC where they can be used as a source of random entropy. Power is supplied over the USB cable.

With the USB Hourglass, the user can look at the sand falling through the center of the hourglass and monitor the randomness in the USB output data. And one can read the code line-by-line, compile it, and upload it to the microcontroller using only open-source and widely supported tools.