Daft Punk Word Clock Goes Stronger And Faster

What would you call a word clock that doesn’t tell time? The concept of a word clock is that all the words needed to be used are already there and then just selected. [Ben Combee] realized there were only 18 unique words to make up the song “Harder Faster Better Stronger” and with an extra PyBadge from Supercon 2021 on hand, it seems obvious to make a musical word clock of sorts.

The PyBadge is a 120 MHz ATSAMD51 based board with a screen, buttons, and a case that he 3d printed. To get reasonable sound quality while still fitting with the 2MB of flash storage on the device, MP3 compression was chosen. Since there was only one speaker, it was mixed down to mono and a lower bitrate, getting the size down to just 880KB. The mp3 is processed by the audiomp3 module in circuitpython with the volume level being sent to five NeoPixels to act as a VU. Getting the timing correct was the hardest part as the lyrics needed to be separated out and the timing figured out. Using Audacity’s label track feature, he had all the words tagged in the track and could export it into a format that could be massaged into a python friendly format.

The music and the text cues becoming desynchronized became a larger issue as the file plays. Increasing the MP3 buffer helped but the real trick was to peek inside the music decoder and figure out how many samples had been decoded and cue the words based on that, rather than the time since it wasn’t as accurate. All the code and files are up on his Hackaday.io page if you feel the need to make your own. If you’re sticking with Daft Punk, make sure to have your helmet ready when you rock. Though based on this summary of the compressibility of pop songs, there are a few other songs with a small enough number of unique words that they too could get the word clock treatment. Video after the break.

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Word clock in the style of the Christmas lights from Stranger Things. If you know, you know.

Stranger Things Message Board Passes The Time By Spelling It Out

Will Netflix’s nostalgic hit Stranger Things be back for a fourth series anytime soon? We could pull out a Ouija board and ask the spirits, but we’d much rather ask closer to the source, i.e. a spirit in the upside down. And you know that the best way to do that is with LEDs — one for each letter of the alphabet so the spirit can spell out their messages.

Arduino, ESP01, and real-time clock powering this Stranger Things word clockAlthough contact with the Demogorgon’s world isn’t likely with [danjovic]’s open-source Stranger Things board, you are guaranteed to get the time spelled out for you every minute, as in, ‘it’s twenty-five (or six) to four’. And if you want to freak out your unwitting friends, you can covertly send messages to it from your phone.

There are two versions now — the original desktop version, and one that hangs on the wall and uses a high-quality photo print for the background. Both use an ESP-01 and an Arduino to help drive the 26 RGB LEDs, and use a DS2321 real-time clock for timing. We love the enameled wiring job on the wall-mount version, but the coolest part has to be dual language support for English and Brazilian Portuguese. You can check out demos of both after the break.

We’ve seen many a word clock around here, but this is probably one of the few that’s dripping with pop culture. If it’s stunning modernism you want, take a look at this painstakingly-constructed beauty.

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Gorgeous Specimen Is The Final Word In Word Clocks

At this point, it’s safe to say that word clocks aren’t quite as exciting as they once were. We’ve seen versions that boil the concept down to what amounts to a parts bin build, which for better or for worse, takes a lot of the magic out of it. You just get an array of LEDs, put some letters in front of it, write some code, and you’re done.

But then [Mark Sidell] sent in his build, and we remembered why we collectively fell in love with these clocks in the first place. It wasn’t the end result that captivated us, although the final clock is indeed gorgeous, but the story of its painstaking design and construction. The documentation created for this project is unquestionably some of the best we’ve seen in a very long time, and whether or not you have any desire to build a word clock of your own, you won’t regret sitting down and reading through it.

If you can somehow come away from reading through that build log and not be impressed, surely the clock’s feature set will put you over the edge. The ability to show time in just five minute increments makes this one of the most practical word clocks we’ve seen, and the quality of life features such as automatic brightness control based on ambient light level, and a smartphone-controlled web interface for configuring the clock are just a few of its standout features.

Incidentally the glow behind the clock, provided by a dedicated array of WS2812 RGB LEDs, isn’t just for ambiance. It indicates the position of the sun in the sky as calculated by the Python astral package, as well as mimicking the colors of the sunrise and sunset. There’s even a compass onboard to make sure the LEDs are properly aligned with their astronautical counterpart.

[Mark] actually made several of these clocks, most of which were given away as gifts. Some of the lucky recipients lived far enough away that the clock had to be shipped, so he designed a custom shipping case to hold everything securely during the trip. It also meant he had to come up with a way of remotely maintaining the code on these clocks without user intervention, so he created a firmware update and telemetry gathering backend with Amazon Web Services that they check into periodically. Honestly, the attention to detail put into every element of this project is just staggering.

If you’re interested in seeing what all the fuss is about with these word clocks, but aren’t quite at [Mark]’s level, don’t worry. As we said earlier, you can build a small version with little more than an LED array and a microcontroller. Just don’t blame us if it ends up turning into an obsession.

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The Word Clock You Can Feel

By this point, pretty much everyone has come across a word clock project, if not built one themselves. There’s just an appeal to looking at a clock and seeing the time in a more human form than mere digits on a face. But there are senses beyond sight. Have you ever heard a word clock? Have you ever felt a word clock? These are questions to which Hackaday’s own [Moritz Sivers] can now answer yes, because he’s gone through the extreme learning process involved in designing and building a haptic word clock driven with the power of magnets.

Individual letters of the display are actuated by a matrix of magnetic coils on custom PCBs. These work in a vaguely similar fashion to LED matrices, except they generate magnetic fields that can push or pull on a magnet instead of generating light. As such, there are a variety of different challenges to be tackled: from coil design, to driving the increased power consumption, to even considering how coils interact with their neighbors. Inspired by research on other haptic displays, [Moritz] used ferrous foil to make the magnets latch into place. This way, each letter will stay in its forward or back position without powering the coil to hold it there. Plus the letter remains more stable while nearby coils are activated.

Part of the fun of “ubiquitous” projects like word clocks is seeing how creative hackers can get to make their own creations stand out. Whether it’s a miniaturized version of classic designs or something simple and clean, we  love to see them all. Unsurprisingly, [Moritz] himself has impressed us with his unique take on word clocks in the past. (Editor’s note: that’s nothing compared to his cloud chambers!)

Check out the video below to see this display’s actuation in action. We’re absolutely in love with the satisfying *click* the magnets make as they latch into place.

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A Discrete Logic Word Clock

Self-acclaimed computer nerd [Kevin Koster] was tired of designing new TTL-logic clocks before finishing his previous designs. So he finally buckled down and completed this unique word clock, which uses only a handful of TTL chips. We can’t disagree with his friends who complained that they can’t read [Kev]’s handwriting, so perhaps this diagram will make it clearer.

Besides being a nice logic-only project, this will give an example to younger folks how much effort went into things which are so simple to implement today. We don’t see a Karnaugh map on the project page for sorting out the logic diodes driving the minutes LEDs. If [Kev] did it on the fly, as the rat’s nest of diodes on the schematic would suggest, we’re not sure whether to scold him or be impressed (he does redraw that logic very neatly on a separate sheet).

No worries about high speed wiring on this project. The main oscillator derives time from the 50 Hz AC transformer power supply, and outputs a reference clock signal of 16.7 mHz (not MHz), or once per minute. This is divided down to 3.3 mHz for the 5-minutes counter and again to 277 uHz for the hour counter. If you live in a 60 Hz power mains country, you’d have to modify the oscillator section. Or you could contact [Kev] on his site, as he is considering making this available as a kit worldwide. If you like word clocks, we’ve covered quite a few of them before, including this crazy-complex rear-projection one.

This Slimline Word Clock Uses Laser Etching To Keep Things Simple

Judging by the tips we get, it seems like the popularity of word clocks has perhaps started falling off lately. But back at peak word clock, we were seeing dozens of designs, some better than others. This simple but classy word clock seems to benefit from all that prior art, making the design just about as simple as it can get while still looking great.

The main tool for [t0mg]’s build is a laser cutter, which is a great choice for keeping the design simple. The tricky part of word clocks is getting the “word search” matrix executed cleanly, and we’ve seen everything from laser-cut wood to inkjet prints, and even commercially produced PCBs, used for the job. [t0mg] opted instead to spray paint a piece of glass and etch away the characters with the laser, which results in superb text quality. Etching the underside of the glass also has the advantage of protecting the paint layer while giving the finished clock a glossy face that really looks nice. Under the template lie layers of MDF that hold the Neopixel strips and act as light guides, while an ESP32 and RTC perform timekeeping and LED-driving duties. [t0mg] finished off the clock with a nice web interface to set the clock, change the colors, and perform maintenance functions. The video below shows the software in use.

We really think this clock looks great, and for those with access to a laser cutter, it seems like a great way to go about building your own.

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Moving Fridge Magnets Make For Unique Clock

We see a ton of clock projects around these parts, and being hackers, we love to feature them all. But every once in a while we stumble upon a great new way to display the time that really gets our attention and requires a closer look, such as this moving fridge magnet clock.

The fridge magnets [Craig Colvin] built this unique clock around are the colorful plastic kinds that have adorned the lower regions of refrigerators in toddler-filled households for ages. Instead of residing on a fridge, [Craig] laminated a sheet of white acrylic to a thin sheet of steel, to give the magnets something to hold onto. Moving the numbers is the job of a CoreXY-style mechanism. The belt-driven Cartesian movement maneuvers a head to to the right location to pick up a number; a servo in the head moves two powerful magnets into position under the number. The head then moves the number to the right spot, releases its magnets, and the number stays put on the board. You can see it in action in the video after the break.

While we love this as it is, it brings to mind some great mods. One can imagine the addition of letters to make a legit word clock, or to just add a calendar display. We’d also love to see these magnets in their natural habitat by building this into the door of a working fridge.

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