Infra, A TV Built from Remote Controls from TVs


All of the remotes in the world that wind up getting lost in couches and/or accidentally stuck in the refrigerator are all cheering right now, mostly because Chris Shen has turned the tables for them. Meet Chris Shen‘s installation called Infra, which is composed of 625 re-purposed remote controls hooked into a Peggy and made to broadcast low-res live TV, albeit in infrared:

INFRA by Chris Shen from Chris Shen on Vimeo.

625 discarded remote controls, repurposed to broadcast live television using the infrared LEDs inside each device. Creating an infrared display invisible to the naked eye. When viewed through infrared goggles, the light becomes visible and the low resolution TV broadcast can be seen.

A TV made from remote controls.

Exhibited at 18 Hewett Street, London – January 2013
More info:


Awesome. The also equally awesome compadres over at Evil Mad Scientist Labs also got Chris to talk a bit about how he made everything work — which these guys are really, really, really good at doing! Chris Shen used a modified Peggy 2 from the Evil Mad Scientists’ Lab — the Peggy 2 is a pegboard-kind of system that can drive 625 LEDs into a display. Chris modified his Peggy 2 with Molex connectors and then again on each remote so they could be plugged directly into the Peggy 2.



I love being a nerd.  We are inheriting the Earth.


Something extra cool — an interview with Chris about Infra at Post New.

A 4D Theme Park?! Oh Yes.

It’s too bad we can’t buy tickets to one of THESE kind of parks at the gas station like you can places like King’s Island and Six Flags Over, uh, Wherever:


This place is called Live Park, and it was on some kind of a “world tour” for three months in South Korea recently:

Live Park was created by a firm called d’Strict — who has some pretty huge projects under their belt, check them out!


Nixie Tubes – Old But Awesome Technology

Have you ever seen the trademark amber glow of the Nixie Tube?

Nixie tubes have made a bit of a comeback by Makers and tinkerers of today’s tech — an old-school look with old-school innards using pretty simple technology to create some pretty spectacular results.  Nixie tube clocks, signs, and even Nixie tube wrist watches, as worn by Steve Wozniak:

For those of you nerds out there like me who HAVE TO KNOW MORE ABOUT WOZ’S NIXIE WATCH RIGHT NOW OMFG OCD LALALALAAAAAA, please check this video out!  Here’s Woz talking about scaring the crap out of his seatmates on flights as he changes the time zone!  The maker of this watch is Cathode Corner, and they are pretty freaking cool!

Ok, ok, enough about the watch.  Now as I was saying…  NIXIE TUBES!  In short, a Nixie tube is a little illuminator/signal tube that looks a lot like a vacuum tube but is actually a cold cathode discharge device with either digits in it or symbols.  If you’ve ever seen the very popular hacker device called a Nixie Clock (or Nixie Tube Clock), then you know what a Nixie tube looks like.  They’re pretty unmistakeable – a lot of vintage Russian gear from the 1960’s and 1970’s are filled with Nixie tubes for some reason.  They make such a beautiful display, it’s essentially a kind of neon discharge tube, but not really:

A side note – this entire article came from me wanting to know the origin of the term “Nixie” in reference to these tubes.  Nixie comes from a name that the draftsman working on the tube signal wrote down on his drafting plate – “NIX1,” for Numeric Indicator eXperimental #1.  As you can imagine, the nickname “Nixie” stuck, and the guy who owned the patent also patented the name “Nixie.”  WHY do I love this kind of knowledge?!

Nixie tubes are pretty simple technology that relies on cold cathode glow discharge technology, which is actually pretty cool!  I’m sure you’ve heard of cathodes (the place where electrons come from) and anodes (the place where electrons flow to) – this is extremely important in understanding how these Nixie tubes work.  The difference between a “hot” cathode and a “cold” cathode is basically in how the electrons move from the cathode to the anode.  Instead of using heat to release electrons from something in a vacuum (like in fluorescent tubes and HID lamps), in the case of cold cathode devices the electrons are released by manipulating the electrical field in a vacuum.  Now before this gets really crazy into field emissions and the Zener Effect (not to mention the Aston Dark Space and Positive Columns and Faraday’s Space and whatnot), it’s probably a good idea to simplify this a bit for brevity’s sake.

So, are you familiar with the way that tungsten-halogen lamps work?  Basically, the gas inside them is from the halogen group (I can still remember the mnemonic – ‘F, Cl, Br, I!!‘) at a high pressure vacuum, and the filaments are tungsten.  Gasses from the halogen group loves them some tungsten vapor fo sho, actually, which is why we use them together.  As the filament burns at incandescence, atoms of tungsten evaporate from the filament into gas (think of it as a metal gas because, well, it is) and they float around in this halogen family gas.  As the atoms of tungsten get near the considerably yet minutely cooler glass envelope of the lamp, they also cool down and are re-deposited on the envelope.  Consequently, this is why and how we are able to make T-H lamps last longer and put out higher amounts of light; the redepositing of the atoms back onto the filament helps lengthen its life by re-coating the filament with “fresh” atoms of tungsten.  This is called the T-H life cycle.

I didn’t explain the tungsten-halogen lamp because the Nixie and the T-H lamp are similar; I wanted to put a picture in your head about how atoms (and smaller subatomics) travel inside of a vacuum environment.  In a really simplified explanation of how the Nixie tubes work, look at this great image of a discombobulated Nixie lamp, courtesy of the awesome people at the Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories:

Nixie Tube

See the mesh?  That’s the anode, or the positively charged part.  The numbers themselves, each one in the stack there, is an individual cathode, or the negatively charged part.  Electrons and ions travel from the cathode to the anode (remember ACID and CCD to remember current flow – Anode Current Into Device and Cathode Current Departs).  Inside the Nixie tube, there is a gas – typically one of the Noble gasses group of elemental gasses – that exists in low pressure inside the tube.  When the anode and cathode are given a potential difference in charge, the gas atoms get all angry and split up into negatively charged electrons and positively charged ions.  The ions are attracted to the negative cathode, and the electrons are attracted of course to the positively charged anode.  As these ions go slamming into the cathode, something really interesting takes place — atoms of metal from the cathode are basically knocked out of the cathode in a process called sputtering.  This sputtering of the metal atoms is literally caused by these ions slamming into the cathode.  Imagine breaking a rack of billiard balls with a cue ball — make sense now?

Once the sputtered metal atoms are knocked loose and are flying around, there are also some electrons flying around, too.  The electrons don’t have enough speed or energy to do much with the metal atoms floating close to the cathode (the number itself), so this weird little dark space called the Aston Dark Space (aka the Cathode Dark Space) takes place close to the cathode.  It’s weird, but you can actually see it – look closely at this Crookes Dark Space Tube:

See the dark spaces right at the center?  There is a small round cathode at the middle of that tube, and the dark space occurs right around it.  The larger dark spaces on either side of the bright “ball” of light at the center of the Crookes tube is something else, called the Faraday Dark Space.  Here’s another example, this one a diagram:

What’s cool about this glow outside of the Cathode Dark Space is what happens to make the glow happen — the electrons gain some speed and energy as they travel towards the positively charged anode (the mesh cage in the case of the Nixie Tube), and at a point outside of the Aston (or Cathode) dark space, they have enough energy and speed to cause a strong collision with the metal atoms sputtered away from the cathode.  When this happens, *PRESTO* — we have the release of a photon which causes light!

I think these Nixie Tubes are quite awesome.  Some history on the Nixie Tube’s patent and development:

The early Nixie displays were made by a small vacuum tube manufacturer called Haydu Brothers Laboratories, and introduced in 1955 by Burroughs Corporation, who purchased Haydu and owned the name Nixie as a trademark.  [...] Similar devices that functioned in the same way were patented in the 1930s, and the first mass-produced display tubes were introduced in 1954 by National Union Co. under the brand name Inditron. However, their construction was cruder, their average lifetime was shorter, and they failed to find many applications due to their complex periphery.

Burroughs even had another Haydu tube that could operate as a digital counter and directly drive a Nixie tube for display. This was called a “Trochotron”, in later form known as the “Beam-X Switch” counter tube; another name was “magnetron beam-switching tube”, referring to their similarity to a cavity magnetron. Trochotrons were used in the UNIVAC 1101 computer, as well as in clocks and frequency counters.

The first trochotrons were surrounded by a hollow cylindrical magnet, with poles at the ends. The field inside the magnet had essentially-parallel lines of force, parallel to the axis of the tube. It was a thermionic vacuum tube; inside were a central cathode, ten anodes, and ten “spade” electrodes. The magnetic field and voltages applied to the electrodes made the electrons form a thick sheet (as in a cavity magnetron) that went to only one anode. Applying a pulse with specified width and voltages to the spades made the sheet advance to the next anode, where it stayed until the next advance pulse. Count direction was not reversible. A later form of trochotron called a Beam-X Switch replaced the large, heavy external cylindrical magnet with ten small internal metal-alloy rod magnets which also served as electrodes.

I found a lot of really amazing resources on the Nixie tube.  I had to post some of it, this stuff is amazing, and there are a LOT of really big fans!

American Nixies from Sphere Research:

Russian Nixies from Sphere Research:

Thanks to Nature, Dribble, Wikipedia (ions), Wikipedia (electrostatic discharge), Wikipedia (field electron emission), TeslaTech, and Steve Wozniak for being awesome.  

Zeiss OLED Cinemizer Glasses

I just found this crazy article on Engadget about the Carl Zeiss Cinemizer glasses.  Have you seen these things?

(This image opens up HUGE if you want detail…)

So these are OLED, HD glasses with some pretty interesting specs.  They’re only pre-ordering now, but they’re pre-ordering for 649 Euro.  That’s about 851.55 USD.  I’m guessing that they’re gonna be about 850 bucks cool.

A video demo of the Zeiss Cinemizers:

From the pre-order site – for $850+ you get:

Cinemizer OLED with battery
Cinemizer HDMI adapter – 720p / 1080p (2D / 3D)
Nose pads plus 2 matching items
USB cable
AV video cable
Quick Guide and safety handling
Travel case
HDMI to Mini-HDMI Cable Adapter

Some tech specs on the Cinemizers:

HDMI: 720p, 1080p and 3D (Frame Packing)
video-capable iPod and iPhone models (component, composite)
AV-in: yellow RCA cable (composite video, PAL / NTSC)

Diopter adjustment:
each eye separately adjustable from -5 to +2 diopters
the lens supporting a pupil distance of 59 – 69mm

Screen resolution:
High resolution 870 x 500 OLED display for each eye

(FOV engl.: Field of View):
30 degrees – equivalent to a 40-inch (102 cm) large image in 2 meters distance
16:9 widescreen

Power supply:
Rechargeable lithium-ion battery, USB charging
voltage : 5 V, current consumption: 450mA

Light source:
LED class 1

Battery life:
Battery life of up to 6 hours when fully charged Battery charge time 2.5 hours

battery box 80 g weight on the nose 80 g glasses total about
120 g package approx 1000 g

Mini-USB for charging the internal battery
3.5 mm audio jack for external stereo-headphone jack
3.5 mm AV (4-pin) for connecting external video sources

environmental conditions:
Operation at 5 ° C to 35 ° C storage and transport at -20 ° C to 60 ° C
humidity 10-90%, noncondensing

I always get such a kick out of product marketing imagery.  For example, I like to call this next one “Hey sweetheart, we’re gonna yank out several of your teeth now, here’s some Cinemizers to help you ignore the fact that you have a dentist standing on your shoulders trying to yank your toofs out!”

Very cool.

Thanks for the original article, Engadget!


Curioser and Curioser

Curious Displays from Julia Tsao on Vimeo.

Julia Tsao’s Curious Displays are just plain neat! The proposal for a display that goes beyond set dimensions and aspect ratio is in itself fascinating, but then the augmented reality functionality shown in section 2 shows a whole new level of possibility. I would just LOVE to get my hands dirty programming some art on these little buggers!

Tanya Vlach Wants to Grow A Bionic Eye

Tanya Vlach is looking for someone to help her invent a “bionic” eye that has a camera inside.  Watch this:

Tanya is looking for donors and engineers to help her create an experimental project featuring her prosthetic eye and a camera.  It sucks that she had to experience such tragedy in order to have this opportunity, but I have to say that I am inspired and excited to see how her project comes out.  If you’re interested in helping Tanya make her project come to life, please help her out over at Kickstarter.

Details from her Kickstarter page:

Before we get into the nitty gritty details of the eye camera, let’s back up a few years. In 2005, I was in a near death car accident. Centimeters away from death, I managed to pull through. Although grateful to be alive, I lost my left eye in the tumble and suffered frontal lobe minor brain injury and severe depression.

I entered the vast world of the Internet and chronicled my experiences on my blog, One-Eyed. I posted about new developments in technology that would help me regain sight. Soon I began envisioning a sci-fi plot twist to my predicament. I pitched my idea to Wired Founder Kevin Kelly. Intrigued, he posted my call out to engineers to help build an implant of a miniature camera inside my prosthetic eye. Immediately the idea went viral and I received hundreds of international engineering proposals, support from my  one-eyed community, and thousands of media inquiries. I became the media haven for transhumanism and the subject of controversy around engineering the body. Since then, I’ve been plotting new strategies to tell my story, both my personal one and the one of my sci-fi alter ego, into a transmedia platform, which will include: a graphic novel, an experimental documentary, a web series, a game, and a live performance. Grow a new eye – is about engineering a new bionic camera eye. 

This is an awesome story.  You need to go check out Tonya’s blog page, Eye, Tanya.  Let me know if you end up supporting the project in any way, leave a comment of support here for Tanya.  I really hope that this technology advances in a direction that helps for everyone.

Light and Optics Work Together to Make LCDTV Possible

My old (and still awesome) friend Derek Heckler sent me this video that you all have to watch – seriously, watch this video! Bill Hammack (from Engineer Guy, also a professor at the University of Illinois) made this video, and I have to say that it is one of the best videos on breaking down the internal working components of light and optics in LCD monitors!

Also, make sure to check out Bill’s videos on Youtube, too – hours and hours of awesome watching there!

Lumarca for a Monday Morning

Good morning, everyone!  I hope that this is the start to a fantastic Monday, and an even better week.

Today’s phrase is “volumetric video.”  To explain what I mean by “volumetric video,” take a look at this video:

This project is called Lumarca – and it’s the brainchild of Albert Hwarng, Matt Parker, and Elliot Woods.  From the Lumarca website:

Lumarca is a truly volumetric display which allows viewers to see three dimensional images and motion. The system requires only a computer, a projector, and common materials found at most hardware stores. This provides an affordable platform for artists to design compelling content that conveys information, narrative, and aesthetic information in a new way. Lumarca is a collaboration between Albert Hwarng, Matt Parker, and Elliot Woods.

Lumarca was entered into the World Maker Faire’s contest, sponsored by Red Bull, called Create the Future.  Long story short, they won – and are now looking for venture capital to make this project into something even more awesome than what they have.

Awesome project. salutes you!