Bubble Display

As hackers we have come up with some pretty wild and unique ways to display data, but that never stops us from creating even wilder ways such as this Bubble Display. Inspired by a Hackaday article called Liquid Display the bubble display started out as a one column lexan tank so the team could check out different liquids, and build methods, which gave them the opportunity to test out their wet/dry vacuum in the basement as well.

After the leaks were solved in the prototype, different fluids were tried out to see what would work best,  glycerine (though the most expensive out of the 3 items tested) gave the best performance in how the bubbles rose to the top, and the uniformity of each individual bubble.

The final tank design features (24?) channels to keep bubbles from interacting with each other and are fitted with some Parker A005-C23-2P pneumatic valves hooked up to a standard air compressor. Electrically it’s pretty standard, with the solinoid driver stuff all run by a PIC18F4455 clocked at 48MHz.

Software wise the device has 3 modes, one mode allows users to enter text or simple bitmaps from a computer using a homebrew GUI written in Visual Basic, there is also a demo loop for when you still want to show it off, but there is not someone there to constantly bang data into it, and finally a live keyboard mode which acts as a bubble music visualizer when there is a keyboard connected via MIDI. Check all 3 out in a short video after the break.


25 thoughts on “Bubble Display

  1. Sweet! We did a 96-tube version for the Ontario Science Centre a few years ago with a webcam so users can take a photo of themselves and see it in the display.

    taomc . com /art/permanent_installations/pipedream_series/pipedream_iii.html
    bobodyne . com /web-docs/robots/OSC/

  2. But it would have given them a wider viscosity choice (and it may have actually saved them some money, I don’t know the going price of 20 – 55 gallons or so of glycerin).

  3. The Science Museum of Minnesota has had a bubble wall display like this for a very long time now. I can recall seeing it as much as 13 years ago, and it had been there for a while at that point. Theirs is several stories tall and makes a glorious wall-shaking clatter when in operation. They used to have a giant step-sensing keyboard as well, but since the installation was mounted on the other side of the back wall of their iMax theater they had to remove it since pranksters would trigger the whole wall at once to make the theater screen shake. :)

  4. Wow, WTF is with the loose use of “hacker” around here? I don’t see these guys performing any never-done-before reverse engineering of a product and then modifying it to do something that it was never meant to do in the first place.

    Are you guys trying to redefine the word, or do you just like saying it?

  5. Very impressive.
    If you could remove the amount of liquid at the bottom that the bubble displaces, it’d probably keep the bubbles in alignment much better.
    I’d like to see a higher resolution display for this.

  6. I saw something like this at CMU about 10 years ago. Thought it was cool then, still do. If anyone has more info on the bubble display from Carnegie Mellon, post it. I think it may have functioned similar to Craig’s description above, because I seem to remember the images being stationary if they wanted them to be.

  7. @Hirudinea Nice idea…I’d imagine they’d be best off using regular smoke because they could use directed RGB LEDs to change colour through the bubble’s life. The smoke bubble would show up much brighter than an un-smoky bubble plain bubble when lit.

    @Craig Nice idea, I wonder how effective a vortex would be in keeping a bubble submerged, in particular if the vortex is driven from below like this;

    If you sealed the top (perhaps with oil?) to prevent an air core vortex forming (I think the viscosity of the oil would prevent an oil core vortex at modest speeds) would the higher speed water at the bottom of the container draw bubbles down? I may have my physics wrong but I see no reason why a set speed of rotation couldn’t have an equilibrium point in the water/medium at which the bubble “hovers” (ie. doesn’t float up or down). Of course as far as I can think this would only work for one bubble/equilibrium at a time, but perhaps would be interesting none the less.

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