It’s Like… I Can Tell The Time Just By The Color, Man

[Alex] has reduced the resolution of his timepiece as a trade-off for speedy-readability. At least that’s what he claims when describing his color-changing clock. It uses a ShiftBrite to slowly alter the hue of the clock based on the current time. The concept is interesting: 12:00 starts off at white and slowly fades to green at 3:00, blue at 6:00, red at 9:00, and back to white by 12:00 to start the process over again. He has gotten to the point where he can get the time within about 15 minutes just with a quick look. But he did need to spend a few days acquiring the skill by having the color clock sit next to a traditional digital clock.

The build is pretty simple and we’d bet you already have what you need to make your own. [Alex] is really just proving a concept by using the ShiftBrite and an mBed, there’s no precision RTC involved here. So grab your microcontroller of choice, and an RGB LED of your own and see if you can’t recreate his build.

Of course you could always choose to build a color-based timepiece that’s even harder to read.

15 thoughts on “It’s Like… I Can Tell The Time Just By The Color, Man

  1. The mbed actually has a 32k crystal, so it will keep time as well as most other table clocks at room temperature. I cannot get 15 minute accuracy quite yet. However, for most of the cycle spectrum I can get within +- 30 minutes with only about a week of use/learning. Some color transitions are harder than others, i.e. 6 to 7

  2. I built a similar thing with RGB LEDs and PWM a while back, but having it pulse between two colours, a long pulse for the hour, and a short pulse for the minutes. You can tell the time to within 5 minutes with this method.

    Also I was using the standard colours you’d find on an HSV colour wheel you might see in Photoshop’s colour picker, so I was already familiar with the colours and their positions around the wheel.

  3. I might make one of these.

    I like Mike’s method for having minutes and hours, but you could also splurge and get a second LED ;) I also like the idea of a standard “Roy G. Biv” color cycle.

    An idea: What about adding this to a standard analog clock, so that the entire face is lit? You could get the rough time at a glance, even while running or from very far away, or take a little longer and get the precise time, as usual.

    Another idea: Make it more of an art piece by using it to illuminate a white statue/knickknack/etc.

  4. haha! Great project. You proved what i have thought to be too hard. I’ve thought of this idea but ended up using two leds which gave 12 colors each, allowing 6 minutes of precision. Didn’t make it out of the breadboard…

    Congrats for proving me it works.

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