Hey, what thread count is that GIF?
July 22, 2015 10:11 AM   Subscribe

4K displays may be pretty, but how can they possibly compete with an 80x80 display that generates tens of thousands of volts of static electricity while rendering images entirely out of thread?

If you tag your Instagram photos with #F21ThreadScreen, you may just see them show up on the live stream.
posted by tocts (26 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
This gives "multithreading" a whole new meaning.
posted by Foosnark at 10:17 AM on July 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'd love to discuss this, but I believe Metafilter deprecates threaded comments.
posted by yoink at 10:22 AM on July 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


A tailor tried to solve a problem with threads.

Now problems he. two has
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:24 AM on July 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Graphical 2D textile mellotron. That's pretty rad.
posted by cortex at 10:24 AM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


"What's life without whimsy?" —Sheldon Cooper
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:31 AM on July 22, 2015


I'd love to see more technical information -- particularly how they're keeping the thing calibrated. They mention that slippage was indeed a challenge, but I'm a little horrified that they might be keeping the thing calibrated by hand, given that they mention counting motor steps...
posted by schmod at 10:40 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


this isn't that cool. it's a loop of coloured material that is rotated to the right colour. the first video, at least, is way oversold. you have 80x80 of basically the same thing: a stepper motor and a coloured band.

it's a nice idea. i appreciate the play between "new" and "old". really, i do. but i don't think its anything like as exciting as the video is making out. and that kind of self-inflated over-selling annoys me. which it probably shouldn't, because what have i done? but there you go.

for example: they say it has 80 (if i remember correctly) times as many parts as your car. but i could make a feeble attempt at building this. i have diddly squit chance of making a car that works.

sorry
posted by andrewcooke at 10:43 AM on July 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I see one "dead" pixel. Still, a really impressive machine.

(If it were me, I guess I would have been looking to glue the thread fabric to toothed belts to make calibration easier, but that would have required each spool to be a gear.)
posted by maxwelton at 10:44 AM on July 22, 2015


There's a Hacker News thread where one of the guys who made this chimes in with a few answers to technical questions - it does sound like each spool has a strip on it they use to calibrate it.
posted by zempf at 10:50 AM on July 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


whoa, this is really cool. all these unexpected problems, like massive amounts of static electricity.

there are so many questions in my head: do they use feedback to control ribbon position? what kind of feedback would it be? how do they maintain ribbon tension? and on and on...
posted by indubitable at 10:52 AM on July 22, 2015


Here's the behind the scenes video.
posted by art.bikes at 10:53 AM on July 22, 2015


do they use feedback to control ribbon position?

In the HN thread the guy says there's a retroreflective strip that they use with a sensor to do absolute positioning - essentially they can reset every spool to a known good position. But the ribbon slips soemtimes and in general there's no feedback. I guess it's like an eink display where they basically reset the whole thing every so often.
posted by GuyZero at 10:56 AM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


They say that a bit of slippage doesn't matter too much as colour areas aren't too different from their neighbours, and the IR strip is good enough for dead reckoning.

As for the static, perhaps making the bands conductive in some way would help, but I guess that would introduce more complexity into their composition. Still, making them out of conductive rubber so they were more like standard drive belts... colourising that would be interesting. The pixel design is close to how a van de graaff generator works, though, so yes. There will be sparks.

Does look as if they could do with a better tensioning mechanism, if ambient temperature changes cause too much variation in loop tension. I sorta agree that the behind-the-scenes video is a bit too "look how clever we are, we do electronics and mechanics and software all together!", at least for my tastes. It's a fun thing and I'm sure it took a lot of work, but you'll have no trouble finding lots of engineers who've worked on equivalent or more complex problems without being quite so bullish about how darn smart.

Wonder if they could have got it in half the depth if they'd used Möbius strips.
posted by Devonian at 11:13 AM on July 22, 2015


you'll have no trouble finding lots of engineers who've worked on equivalent or more complex problems without being quite so bullish about how darn smart.

It's very technically complex for an art project relative to, say, a watercolour.

It's not very technically complex for an engineering project. But it's not trivial either.

It's a reasonably novel way of doing a display and as far as art goes, sure, it's art.
posted by GuyZero at 11:34 AM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Daniel Rozin has produced a range of art works in this vein, many of them more interesting -- and all of them less tied to an ad campaign -- than this one. I particularly like the penguins.
posted by cubby at 11:49 AM on July 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


cubby: "Daniel Rozin has produced a range of art works in this vein."

Yeah, and Rozin's Wooden Mirror was made in 1999, so I don't see this project as especially novel. (Though there's definitely plenty of hard work and good engineering behind it.) Maybe there's a ten year lag time for art world ideas to reach the advertising world?
posted by Wemmick at 12:07 PM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


As Golan Levin said, new media artists are the unpaid research division of ad agencies. I've been on both sides of that myself!
posted by moonmilk at 12:48 PM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Someday they'll stop using jangly, upbeat sounding, banjos-and-toy-xylophones-and-triangles pseudo indie pop as generic background music for maker/crowdfunding style making-of videos.

But apparently that day is not today, and I'm doubtful that day will happen in my lifetime.

Seriously, is there some kind of factory churning out this inoffensively jangly, sparkly music somewhere?

I'm imagining a thousand abducted Portland hipsters kept super high on Ketamine and Ecstasy while an endless jam session on charmingly quirky old or toy instruments is forced at gunpoint, where everything is recorded and the best bits are edited out and sold from seedy back-alley Pinterest pages to unsuspecting makers/crowdfunders.
posted by loquacious at 12:48 PM on July 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's like something out of The Difference Engine.
posted by Naberius at 1:03 PM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Appropriate that a story about Forever 21 is right above a story about sweatshops...


I guess they're spending the money they save on cool tech, though.
posted by Huck500 at 1:33 PM on July 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Someday they'll stop using jangly, upbeat sounding, banjos-and-toy-xylophones-and-triangles pseudo indie pop as generic background music for maker/crowdfunding style making-of videos

GoFundMe: Give An Indie Musician an Ibanez V-Neck and a Peavey Amp
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:35 PM on July 22, 2015


MetaFilter: rendering images entirely out-of-thread
posted by oulipian at 3:37 PM on July 22, 2015


Cool idea. What I want to see is something that exploits the underlying tech — like set up an image and then drive all the motors slowly forward at the same speed, or set them all to the same color and them drive them each at their own speed this is related to position in some middlingly complex manner. There's all sorts of interesting kinetic possibilities.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:07 PM on July 22, 2015


It's kinda cool, but that video tries way too hard. Every time I see a science-y video with EXCITING MUSIC! and COOL EFFECTS! and JUMP TO A CAMEO and then BACK TO THE DEVICE FOR LIKE A MILLISECOND BEFORE JUMPING BACK I know that the person who produced it found the story to be very, very boring. I'd have been satisfied with a video of the actual machine operating, silently, for an extended period of time.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:18 PM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you're looking for something like the Kinotrope from The Difference Engine, you'll want to see this previous project from BREAKFAST.
posted by JoeZydeco at 5:03 PM on July 22, 2015


I really do quite like this thing, and I came to say something eye roll-y about the pow!pow! la-da-da-da-daaaa(jangle-jangle)! music that is always playing behind these kind of retro-innovatey things, but I see this has been noted by other users already!
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 9:12 PM on July 22, 2015


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