A 3D-Printed Nixie Clock Powered By An Arduino Runs This Robot

While it is hard to tell with a photo, this robot looks more like a model of an old- fashioned clock than anything resembling a Nixie tube. It’s the kind of project that could have been created by anyone with a little bit of Arduino tinkering experience. In this case, the 3D printer used by the Nixie clock project is a Prusa i3 (which is the same printer used to make the original Nixie tubes).

The Nixie clock project was started by a couple of students from the University of Washington who were bored one day and decided to have a go at creating their own timepiece. After a few prototypes and tinkering around with the code , they came up with a design for the clock that was more functional than ornate.

The result is a great example of how one can create a functional and aesthetically pleasing project with a little bit of free time.

Confused yet? You should be.

If you’ve read this far then you’re probably scratching your head and wondering what has come over Hackaday. Should you not have already guessed, the paragraphs above were generated by an AI — in this case Transformer — while the header image came by the popular DALL-E Mini, now rebranded as Craiyon. Both of them were given the most Hackaday title we could think of, “A 3D-Printed Nixie Clock Powered By An Arduino Runs This Robot“, and told to get on with it. This exercise was sparked by curiosity following the viral success of AI generators, which posed the question of whether an AI could make a passable stab at a Hackaday piece. Transformer runs on a prompt model in which the operator is given a choice of several sentence fragments so the text reflects those choices, but the act of choosing could equally have followed any of the options.

The text is both reassuring as a Hackaday writer because it doesn’t manage to convey anything useful, and also slightly shocking because from just that single prompt it’s created meaningful and clear sentences which on another day might have flowed from a Hackaday keyboard as part of a real article. It’s likely that we’ve found our way into whatever corpus trained its model and it’s also likely that subject matter so Hackaday-targeted would cause it to zero in on that part of its source material, but despite that it’s unnerving to realise that a computer somewhere might just have your number. For now though, Hackaday remains safe at the keyboards of a group of meatbags.

We’ve considered the potential for AI garbage before, when we looked at GitHub Copilot.

16 thoughts on “A 3D-Printed Nixie Clock Powered By An Arduino Runs This Robot

  1. It would have been more interesting to see what current generation AI models produce, instead of the last year’s versions used here. Apparently DALL-E 2 and GPT3 or LaMDA are much better.

  2. This comment is strictly less funny than BT’s comment above. Brevity is the soul of wit.

    But on the plus side, it _does_ contain an ironic grammmatical error in the first sentence. You need the past perfect after that conditional!

    I’m also not sure that you mean “generalist” instead of “general”.

    I’ll give you points for the duplicate post jab, though.

    Too bad we’re not hiring. :)

      1. Don’t need AI. A comment generator could be implemented in a few dozen lines of C code… Random number generator followed by switch-case statement… if the random number generator equals

        1… print “That’s not a hack.”
        2… print a disparaging remark about Ardunos
        3… print “you could have done that with a 555.”
        4… print “didn’t this story appear last month?”
        5…print “you could have saved the trouble of building it…you can get the same thing from China for two bucks.”
        6… print some political gibberish
        7… print a generic complaint about the article’s punctuation.
        8…something something carbon footprint/global warming

        Run that code for a week and see if anyone notices.

        Kidding aside, and as to (the apparently recurrent) criticism about HAD article content/writing, I’ll say this. I have noticed occasional errors in structure/syntax/puncuation, yes. But I suspect that those who rail the most about it have never written anything of consequence themselves, and therefore do not appreciate the amount of time and effort it really takes to produce quality content.

  3. If this were a real witty comment, it would start with a wry assertion (not a hack, no 555?!), be full of typos, contain generally incorrect assumptions, and parrot the points made by a previous comment a few lines above it though less succinctly.

    With a bit more training, an AI should definitely be able imitate the mediocrity of HaD comments successfully!

  4. There is in fact a serious point to the “not enough typos” comments: if AI in general wants to pass the “is it human?” test, will it have to introduce deliberate errors? And where will that lead…

  5. Joke’s on us – the quoted text at the beginning of the article was written by a human pretending to be a machine. The explainer text in the second half of the article was written by a machine pretending to be a human explaining how the quoted text was written by a machine.

    Or not. [dances on a ticker tape of noughts and crosses as a marginally-relevant distraction]

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