60 Seconds (Variable Clock)


60 Seconds (Variable Clock) is a project I have been experimenting with for some time. It is to illustrate the subjective nature of our perception of time; “Is time linear?”. This assignment allowed me to turn it into a physical piece.

Remark: I wanted to use real 7-segment displays but given the time and main objective of the project (control > display), I decided to mimic them instead. This was still a challenge as I could not get web sockets to work on Arduino on time. As a result, I used p5 Serial instead.

Materials and components:

  • Long push buttons (thank you Tom)
    Image result for long push buttons
  • Arduino MKR 1010 / USB cable
  • 1/8″ matte black acrylic sheet
  • 4 x standoffs and screws
  • Breadboard / perf board / wires / resistors
  • iPad

Controls: I decided to use 2 push buttons to keep a clean minimal aesthetic. The materials of the buttons are the same as the acrylic used. One button is used to ‘SET’, the other to ‘CHANGE’. The display blinks to indicate which value is being changed (see video below).

System: Push buttons –> Arduino –> p5 Serial –> p5 Sketch (Desktop) –> Socket –> p5 Sketch (iPad)

Schematics: https://itp.nyu.edu/physcomp/labs/labs-arduino-digital-and-analog/digital-input-and-output-with-an-arduino/

Code and laser cut files: https://github.com/hellonun/variable-clock-physical

Design and prototype:

I designed for the iPad to sit on a stand with its controls to feel like they’re one unit. The tricky part here is how to balance the weight so it is at the center of the stand.



I made a cardboard prototype to get a sense of the size and fit.


Size adjustments were made and the iPad stands quite well.


Testing the controls on the piece

Final look:



Original variable clock:

(note to self to fix  (1) no sound at ‘0’ (2) add special feature ‘set seconds’)

Side note: I definitely got distracted by the display and wish I’d spent more time thinking about the controls. However, as I was looking for buttons for this specific piece, I wanted something minimal – something with a tactile ‘click’ but with no sound, and because I couldn’t find ones that were perfect, I experimented with some silicone buttons + vacuum mold making (thank you Ben).


(out of focus)

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