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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Turning video game sprites into 3D objects

Anyone who has played Minecraftfor a good amount of time should have a good grasp on making 3D objects by placing voxels block by block. A giant voxel art dragon behind your base is cool, but what about the math behind your block based artwork? [mikolalysenko] put together a tutorial for making 3D objects out of video game sprites and covers a lot of the math involved in turning pixels into voxels.

The process of modeling a 3D object from a series of 2D images is a very well-studied computer vision problem called multiview stereo reconstruction. This process has been used to build 3D models of random objects with devices such as the Stanford spherical gantry. Unfortunately the math for this algorithm is a mess, but there is another way: using photo hulls (PDF warning) to find the largest possible object from a series of images showing the top, bottom, left, right, front, and back views.

[mikolaly] put together an algorithm to produce 3D images from a series of images and even went so far as to build a web-based shape carving editor. With this web app, it’s possible to make 3D objects simply by inputting a bunch of colored pixels onto six 2D grids.

Once the models were complete, [mikolaly] sent some of the 3D models off to Shapeways for 3D printing. He’s completed Meat boy, Mario, and Link 3D sprites, all available for sale.

Now the only thing left to do is build a script to turn these objects into Minecraft object schematics.