Wiggling Screen And DLP Power This Volumetric POV Display

It seems like the world is ready for a true 3D display. We’ve seen them in sci-fi for decades now, with the ability to view a scene from any angle and inspect it up close. They’ve remained elusive, but that might just be changing thanks to this open-source persistence-of-vision volumetric display.

If the VVD, as it has been named by its creator [Madaeon], looks somewhat familiar, perhaps it’s because editor-in-chief [Mike Szczys] ran into it back in 2019 at Maker Faire Rome. It looks like it has progressed quite a bit since then, but the basic idea is still the same. A thin, flexible membrane, which is stretched across a frame, is attached to articulated arms. The membrane can move up and down rapidly, fast enough that a 1,000-fps high-speed camera is needed to see it move. That allows you to see the magic in action; a digital light processor (DLP) module projects slices of a 3D image onto the sheet, sending the correct image out for each vertical position of the membrane. Carefully coordinating the images creates the POV illusion of a solid image floating in space, which can be observed from any angle, requires no special glasses, and can even be viewed by groups.

With displays like this, we’re used to issuing the caveat that “it no doubt looks better in person”, but we have to say in the GIFs and videos included the VVD looks pretty darn good. We think this is a natural for inclusion in the 2021 Hackaday Prize, and we’re pleased to see that it made it to the semi-finals of the “Rethink Displays” round.

This POV Clock Combines A Nixie With A Pendulum

Talk about your mixed timekeeping metaphors: there are clocks, and pendulum clocks, and there are Nixie clocks, and persistence of vision clocks. But this is a Nixie pendulum POV clock, and we think it’s pretty cool.

We first spied this on Twitter and were subsequently pleased to learn that [Jayzon Oeve] has posted a more detailed build log over on Hackaday.io. Rather than a moving array of dots to create the characters to display, this uses a single IN-12b Nixie tube at the end of a pendulum. The pendulum is kept moving by a small nudge created by a pulse through a fixed hard drive voice coil acting on a magnet affixed to the bottom of the pendulum — we’ve seen a similar approach used before.

Pretty much all of the electronics are mounted on the pendulum arm, including a Nano, an RTC, and an accelerometer to figure out where in the swing the bob is and when to flash a number on the display. There’s a video below that shows it at work both at full speed and in slow-motion; as always with POV clocks, these things probably look better in person than on video. And while swinging Nixies around like that seems a little dicey, we like the way this turned out.

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Motor-Driven Movement Modernizes POV Toy

Just as we are driven today to watch gifs that get better with every loop, people 100+ years ago entertained themselves with various persistence of vision toys that used the power of optical illusions to make still images come to life. [jollifactory] recently recreated one of the first POV devices — the phenakistoscope — into a toy for our times.

The original phenakistoscopes were simple, but the effect they achieved was utterly amazing. Essentially a picture disk with a handle, the user would hold the handle with one hand and spin the disk with the other while looking in a mirror through slits in the disk. Unlike the phenakistoscopes of yore that could only be viewed by one person at a time, this one allows for group watching.

Here’s how it works: an Arduino Nano spins a BLDC motor from an old CD-ROM drive, and two strips of strobing LEDs provide the shutter effect needed to make the pictures look like a moving image.The motor speed is both variable and reversible so the animations can run in both directions.

To make the disks themselves, [jollifactory] printed some original phenakistiscopic artwork and adhered each one to a CD that conveniently snaps onto the motor spindle. Not all of the artwork looks good with a big hole in the middle, so [jollifactory] created a reusable base disk with an anti-slip mat on top to spin those.

If you just want to watch the thing in action, check out the first video below that is all demonstration. There be strobing lights ahead, so consider yourself warned. The second and third videos show [jollifactory] soldering up the custom PCB and building the acrylic stand.

There are plenty of modern ways to build old-fashioned POV toys, from all-digital to all-printable.

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Proto-TV Tech Lies Behind This POV Clock

If it weren’t for persistence of vision, that quirk of biochemically mediated vision, life would be pretty boring. No movies, no TV — nothing but reality, the beauty of nature, and live performances to keep us entertained. Sounds dreadful.

We jest, of course, but POV is behind many cool hacks, one of which is [Joe]’s neat Nipkow disk clock. If you think you’ve never heard of such a thing, you’re probably wrong; Nipkow disks, named after their 19th-century inventor Paul Gottlieb Nipkow, were the central idea behind the earliest attempts at mechanically scanned television. Nipkow disks have a series of evenly spaced, spirally arranged holes that appear to scan across a fixed area when rotated. When placed between a lens and a photosensor, a rudimentary TV camera can be made.

For his Nipkow clock, though, [Joe] turned the idea around and placed a light source behind the rotating disk. Controlling when and what color the LEDs in the array are illuminated relative to the position of the disk determines which pixels are illuminated. [Joe]’s clock uses two LED arrays to double the size of the display area, and a disk with rectangular apertures. The resulting pixels are somewhat keystone-shaped, but it doesn’t really distract from the look of the display. The video below shows the build process and the finished clock in action.

The key to getting the look right in a display like this is the code, and [Joe] put in a considerable effort for his software. If only the early mechanical TV tinkerers had had such help. [Jenny List] did a nice write-up on the early TV pioneers and their Nipkow disk cameras; we’ve also seen other Nipkow displays before, but [Joe]’s clock takes the concept to another level.

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Edge-Mounted LEDs Make This Spherical POV Look Fantastic

For as many of them as we’ve seen, we still love a good persistence of vision display project. There’s something fascinating about the combination of movement and light creating the illusion of solid surfaces, and there’s always fun to be had in electromechanical aspects of a POV build. This high-resolution spherical POV display pushes all those buttons, and more.

Called “Flicker” for obvious reasons by its creator [Dan Foisy], this POV display started with a pretty clear set of goals in terms of resolution and image quality, plus the need to support animated images, all in a spherical form factor. These goals dictated the final form of the display — a PCB disc spinning vertically. The shaft has the usual slip rings for power distribution and encoders for position feedback. The PCB, though, is where the interesting stuff is.

[Dan] chose to use an FPGA to slice and dice the images, which are fed from a Raspberry Pi’s HDMI port, to the LED drivers. And the LEDs themselves are pretty slick — he found parts with 1.6 mm lead spacing, making them a perfect fit for mounting on the rim of the PCB rather than on either side. A KiCAD script automated the process of laying out the 256 LEDs and their supporting components as evenly as possible, to avoid imbalance issues.

The video below shows Flicker in action — there are a few problem pixels, but on the whole, the display is pretty stunning. We’ve seen a few other spherical POV displays before, but none that look as good as this one does.

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POV LED Staff Takes Art For A Spin

The human body does plenty of cool tricks, but one of the easiest to take advantage of is persistence of vision (POV). Our eyes continue to see light for a fraction of a second after the light goes off, and we can leverage this into fun blinkenlight toys like POV staffs. Sure, you can buy POV staffs and other devices, but they’re pretty expensive and you won’t learn anything that way. Building something yourself is often the more expensive route, but that’s not the case with [shurik179]’s excellent open-source POV staff.

There’s a lot to like about this project, starting with the detailed instructions. It’s based on the ItsyBitsyM4 Express and Adafruit’s Dotstar LED strips. You could use the Bluetooth version, but it’s already quite easy to load images to the staff because it shows up as a USB mass storage device. We like that [shurik179] added an IMU and coded the staff so that the images look consistent no matter how fast the staff is spinning. In the future, [shurik179] might make a Bluetooth version that’s collapsible. That sounds like quite the feat, and we can’t wait to see it in action.

As cool as it is to wave a POV staff around, there’s no real practical application. What’s more practical than a clock?

3D POV Display Has The Shakes

Persistence of vision projects are a dime a dozen, but by adding a third dimension [Madaeon] succesfully created one to stand out from the crowd. Instead of waving around a single line of LEDs, he is moving a 2D grid of them vertically to create a volumetric POV display.

The display consists of oscillating 3D printed piston, powered by a small geared motor, on top of which sits a 8 x 8 RGB LED grid and diffusing film. The motor drives a cylindrical cam, which moves a piston that sits over it, while an optical end stop detects the bottom of the piston’s travel to keep the timing correct. [Madaeon] has not added his code to the project page, but the 3D files for the mechanics are available. The current version creates a lot of vibration, but he plans to improve it by borrowing one of  [Karl Bugeja]’s ideas, and using flexible PCBs and magnets.

He also links another very cool volumetric display that he constructed a few years ago. It works by projecting images from a small DLP projector onto an oscillating piece of fabric, to created some surprisingly high definition images.

POV displays are good projects for learning, so if you want to build your own, take a look a simple POV business card, or this well-documented POV spinning top.