Flip-Dots Enter The Realm Of Fine Art

Flip-dot displays look and sound awesome. At least to all of us electronics geeks who dumpster dive for second-hand panels to add to our collections of esoteric display technology. But there are people thinking beyond the yellow/white dots on a black background. [BreakfastNY] have produced a new take on what a flip-dot display can be with color and a bit of theatrics.

Mechanically these are standard pixels that use an electromagnetic coil to pivot a disc between two states. But immediately you’ll see the inert display has a mosaic printed right on the dots. It gets even more fun to realize the same image is present on the rear of the dots but in a different color palette. In the case of this piece, entitled Empire State, it looks like a sunny day on one side and an overcast day on the reverse.

We wondered what this art collective was up to when they began selling flip-dot modules they had designed back in 2016. Having those kinds of connections meant they were able to sweet-talk their manufacturing partners into custom printing colors on the discs during manufacture. The group continues to use their camera-based interactivity that represents silhouettes on the display. The innovative color palette still lets that work quite well, but one really interesting animation choice here is an indeterminate flutter of the pixels. It builds a Matrix-style waterfall animating into the image, beckoning the viewer to walk over with the ulterior motive that this brings them within camera range.

If you want to give the flutter effect a try for yourself, you might want to peek at the 30 FPS flip-dot driver we saw a few weeks back as a responsive option.

13 thoughts on “Flip-Dots Enter The Realm Of Fine Art

      1. Its a bit of a sour comment of me, but I have been eagerly waiting for the flippin’ sound the last couple of videos. It’s THE feature that separates it from the rest displays, packing an ‘auditory notification’ + visual confirmation in one package. There luckily is some some sublte hints at the sound of the flipdot screen in the background here, but practically glossed over with some ‘easy listening’ to sooth you into submission(consumption?). I might not be the audience for this video, but as an artist…id like to see a flipdot project focussing on the auditory complementing visual.

  1. I have to wonder the lifetime of the pixels on a flip dot display being used in this fashion? I’m sure any of us that were alive 20 or more years ago when it was much more common to find these out in the wild remember how often you’d see a flip dot display that may have only updated a hand full of times an hour or at most once a minute with stuck broken “pixels” What kind of wear and tear is essentially doing video on one of these things doing to the mechanics of the display? These things were great for displaying static messages. Like one might see on a highway info sign. It could have been solar powered with the minimalist of battery because only a burst of power would be needed to update the display and the whole thing could essentially power down since zero power was needed to retain the message on the board.

    1. I doubt wear is that bad. The only moving part is the flip disk itself, the rest is solid state electronics and a coil under each disk. The disk already has some loose tolerances so it’s not like it takes alot of effort to move it. I would imagine that with sufficiently rugged electronic parts and thick wire on the coil, flip dots will last quite a while.

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