All Hail the Open-Source Time Machine!

Photo: Dan Henriksson

The Back to the Future fan inside of us may want to call him “Doc,” but his name is Dan Henriksson--and he has just constructed a really awesome representation of a time machine. (Great scott!) The time machine concept is a "working" prototype (appropriately titled “The Time Machine”) and is actually the result of Henriksson’s graduation work from the HDK design school in Gothenburg, Sweden. Not too shabby for an art project, eh?

Wait--Did I say it was a “working” prototype?

Yes I did, but it's not exactly "working" the way you were hoping, so put your wallets (and sanity) back to their original locations. According to Henriksson’s website, The Time Machine works somewhat like a clock, but instead of displaying the current time, it’s said to display “the user’s own sense of time."

The How and What

The Time Machine has several sliders at the bottom that can be adjusted left or right. By interacting with the sliders, users can create their own “elastic timeline” in relation to real time. Henriksson says that the point is to let the user experience the personal feeling of timeflow through the “rush” and “drag” effects displayed by The Time Machine.

After adjusting the sliders, users will be able to experience the time paradoxes they’ve created by viewing The Time Machine’s instant reaction to the changes, with an entertaining visualization executed by the analog clock.

Oh yeah, it runs on 24-hour time, so if you want to play with timelines you should do yourself a favor and start teaching yourself to count past the 12 mark (not that I’m any better, I still struggle with the idea of “13-o’clock”, personally).

Open Source Inside

Henriksson used Arduino circuit boards, which are open-source electronics hardware and software “intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments." According to the Arduino Website, these circuit boards can sense the environment by receiving input from a variety of sensors, and can affect their surroundings by controlling lights, motors, and other actuators. The boards can be built by hand or purchased pre-made.

As for the actual full display itself, Henriksson used a CNC Milling Machine to etch out all of the designs and markings. These machines don’t really come by cheap, so maybe you might want to ask Henriksson to borrow the one he used, if you plan on making your own. (But hey, if it can make you a time machine, why not? It couldn’t cost any more than a DeLorean, after all…)

See it in action:

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