“Meta Clock” Combines the Digital and Analog to Create Kinetic Art
Erich Styger's "digital" Meta Clock is made of 24 individual analog clocks.
Humans have come up with a lot of ways to display the time over the centuries that we’ve been bothering to do so. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, digital LCD clocks and wristwatches were all the rage as people got excited about the cool new technology. These days, analog clocks are seen as classier than their digital counterparts. It’s also possible to mesh the two together into kinetic works of art. That’s what Erich Styger has achieved with his Meta Clock that is made of 24 individual analog clocks.
Styger is quick to point out that the idea for this clock isn’t entirely his own. It was inspired by a number of other projects, including those from the ClockClock series created by Swedish design studio Humans Since 1982. While the details differ, Styger's Meta Clock and the projects that served as inspiration all use the hands of analog clocks to display patterns. Most importantly, the clock hands can be oriented to act a lot like the segments of 7-segment displays in order to show the time in a familiar “digital” form. Even the coordinated movement of the clock hands as they change position is quite beautiful to watch.
In the case of the Meta Clock, the time is shown across a total of 24 individual analog clocks arranged in an 8x3 grid. Those are enough to display four numerical digits — perfect for showing the time or current temperature. Each of those analog clocks was built from scratch. They’re driven by stepper motors and controlled by NXP LPC84x microcontrollers, which feature 32-bit Arm Cortex-M0+ processors. Styger designed custom PCBs in KiCAD that allow one microcontroller to handle four stepper motors, and the boards are able to communicate with each other via an RS-485 bus.
The enclosure for the Meta Clock was laser-cut from thin 4mm plywood, and then painted black. The clock hands were all 3D-printed on an Ultimaker 2. The microcontroller programming was all done through the Eclipse IDE using NXP’s tools. The Meta Clock currently can display the time, the current temperature, and simple animation patterns. The finished design looks fantastic, and is a very artfulway to keep track of the time.