Time Travelling TV and Interactive Hourglass at Maker Faire

Two new interactive digital installations shown for the first time at Newcastle's annual fest of making

The time-travelling dial to set the year of travel (A.D.) for the Perfect Hindsight Machine - thanks to Dave Chatting Hourglass closeup - thanks to Dave Chatting

After much hacking, Maker Faire dawned with not just one, but two interactive installations which have never been seen before, the Perfect Hindsight Machine and the Interactive Egg Timer. Thanks to Clare Bowman, who conceived the Egg Timer and built its housing, and to Neill Keywood who did another amazing fabrication job for the housing of the PHM. Thanks also to Rainycat, Dave Chatting and @martin88 for the pics.

The Perfect Hindsight Machine

Wide shot of Perfect Hindsight Machine - thanks to Rainycat Me dicking around with the innards of the Perfect Hindsight Machine

What does it do?

This is a time-travelling television with the simplest interface possible - a single rotary dial. You simply tune into the year of your choice. As you home in on the correct moment, the white noise clears to show 'live video' from the selected time period, all the way back to 1888. Keep dialling and keep viewing through the months years and decades, until the queue behind you makes you feel too rude and you move on. This is all running in Processing using the GSMovie library.

The video content

It's all public domain video crowdsourced from http://archive.org using a script which grabs mpeg of the ten or so most popular videos downloaded from each year. For example, you can get JSON results like this search for the most popular video between 1880 and 1910 . Unfortunately in 1888 there was only a woman walking around in a garden for three seconds, and a tram going down a Leeds street, both by Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince. From IMDB...

Since Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince was the ONLY director to release any films in 1888 it proves he was the best director of his era. He didn't need big actors or loads of effects or a computerized ape. Just a camera and a bridge. And he was the man who gave birth to cinema. Not literally, that would be hideous. [from IMDB]

However, from about 1910 onwards the video is a delight.

The experience

I think the interaction worked really well, besides a little tweak. People are really fooled by the tuning metaphor, so they keep tweaking the knob. Unfortunately if you keep moving the knob, you keep getting random video blended with white noise. Hence the increasingly clear instructions on the sign. If you want to see it in action, just let me know.

The Interactive Eggtimer

What does it do?

Hourglass closeup - thanks to Dave Chatting

This piece animates 'grains of sand' as you turn the hourglass over in order to tell a story of someone's life. It's based on the All the world's a stage sonnet/soliloquy from As You Like it. The grains of sand are animated, actually appearing on the screen of a small linux tablet. First a single egg, then multiplying body cells, then a baby's face and the face transforms through the 'Seven Ages of Man' as you turn the hourglass. Movements are sensed by an accelerometer and my code translates real gravity into the artificial gravity of a simulated newtonian physics provided by JBox2d.

Here's Shakespeare

All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages. At first the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms; And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school. And then the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier, Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard, Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel, Seeking the bubble reputation Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice, In fair round belly with good capon lin'd, With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances; And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon, With spectacles on nose and pouch on side; His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble, pipes And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion; Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."

Jaques (Act II, Scene VII, lines 139-166) As You Like It by William Shakespeare


processing (4)

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archive.org (2)



time travel


egg timer