Twitter-Writing Laser Gun Turns Tweets Into Art

How can a Twitter feed become art? Hacker and gadget whiz Matt Richardson provides an answer in the form of a project that combines social media, an Arduino microcontroller, and glow-in-the-dark surfaces. It's not exactly completed yet, but the "Fade Away 1" project is something that highlights both the temporary importance of data and the finer applications of a laser gun.

As relayed via Twitter by Engadget's Alt section, Richardson's latest hack was prominently featured at the New York University ITP (Interactive Telecommunications Program) Winter Program this month, showcasing how Twitter could be featured visually via laser writing.

As Richardson explains in his project update, a PHP server searches for specific tweets, much like a specialized Twitter column would, feeding them to two high resolution digital servos that control a ultra-violet laser diode. In turn, the Arduino microcontroller uses the gadget to print pre-programmed characters fed via computer onto the phosphorescent vinyl panel. As implied by the name of the project, the artwork's statement comes from the text eventually fading away as new data is fed to the canvas.

Some people say that what you put on the internet never goes away. Perhaps it’s just a cautious way of thinking about what you upload, but in reality, things really do fade away. And if a particular datum isn’t ever completely eradicated in your lifetime, it gets diluted among the huge amount of data that get uploaded everyday.

It was on this theme that I created Fade Away 1. It performs a twitter search for the term “fade away” and uses an ultra violet laser diode to write these tweets on a phosphorescent surface. Each character has been programmed into an Arduino microcontroller, which controls the servo motors and the laser.

Once Richardson finishes later versions of "Fade Away 1" by quieting the servos, making the letters look nicer, and tweaking the laser motions, he anticipates that his original idea will be fully realized. As it is, the early results look impressive nonetheless. For the more curious hackers and DIY geeks out there, you can follow Richardson's progress on his Twitter and YouTube accounts.

[Matt Richardson via Engadget]

McKinley Noble is a former GamePro staff editor, current technology nerd and eternal mixed martial arts enthusiast. He also likes Japanese sports dramas and soap operas. Follow him on Twitter or just Google his name.

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