Michael Cuiffo

This clock takes QR codes to new levels of uselessness...on purpose

You may think your digital alarm clock is impressive as far as such things go, what with its radio, charging dock, ambient LED light, and toast-making abilities (ok, maybe not the last one). But it doesn’t really show off your geek cred.

Michael Ciuffo’s QR Clock will increase your geek quotient in a hurry, even if it's a little unusual. Simply open a QR code reader app, hold your smartphone up to the clock, and you get the time. Of course, there’s something...absurd about such a clock, as Michael points out:

“In the time it takes to scan a QR clock, you could have looked at your phone's clock, glanced at a wrist watch, or even asked someone else.”

A 24 by 24-pixel LED matrix makes up the main part of the clock, and it displays a QR code that represents the current time. The board displays hours, minutes and seconds, so it changes quite frequently. The LED matrix is Michael’s own creation, and runs off circuit boards he also built himself.

Why a QR code clock? Michael explains:

“I think clocks are fascinating from an engineering perspective because they are what I think the only engineering problem that has been 100% solved. Any attempt to change such a simple and optimized device can only serve to make it more complicated or harder to read. The QR clock does both.

“Before I even considered the clock, I had been curious about QR codes for some time. You always see them on advertisements, but few people understand how they really work. I was looking for a project that would require a QR code in some way.  I was especially interested in something that would require a QR code generator, as I was interested in the algorithms involved in generating a QR code.

“I was also interested in finding a way to point out the irony of QR codes in that they are a prevalent technological convenience that isn't really that convenient.  In the time it takes someone to scan a QR code, they probably could have just typed in a URL or performed a Google search instead.”

Michael Cuiffo

Despite this, Michael has since sold a number of the QR Clocks at a profit. However, his project hasn't been without its pitfalls: It takes a lot of manual labor to built each clock, despite some assembly outsourcing. This means that he’s not likely to make more, instead focusing on a new fun build.

“My blog is my hobby,” he said. “If I wanted to make money, I'd just go to work.”

If you want to give the build a go yourself, Michael has posted all PCB layout, source codes, schematics and other useful insights over on his blog.

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