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Perpetual Energy Wasting Machine by Niklas Roy

ropes copy

Created by Niklas Roy, “Perpetual Energy Wasting Machine” is a rope and pulley mechanism, installed in the staircase of the WRO Art Center in Wroclaw, Poland. The mechanism connects the sliding doors of the elevator in one floor with the elevator call button on another floor. Operating in two directions on the first and on the second floor, the contraption automatically moves the elevator cabin in an infinite loop between those two levels.

Inspired by what Niklas learned at school that energy cannot be wasted – it can only change its location within a system, the projects attempts to address what happens to the energy in this elevator system? Where does it go? The setup is powered by the sliding doors of the elevator. The pulley blocks reduce the sliding door distance of 50 cm to a traveling distance of 12.5 cm for the push button mechanism, while also connecting first and second floor of the building.

The “Perpetual Energy Wasting Machine” moves the elevator in recurring cycles. In the first half cycle, the elevator is lifted up one floor, while the latter half cycle brings the elevator down to its original position again. As this is an hydraulic elevator, and as the cabin´s mass is not equalized by a counterweight, only the movement up consumes electricity. Estimating that the empty elevator cabin has a mass of 350 Kilograms, the wasted energy is about 11.8 Kilojoules per cycle (which equals to the metabolic energy of ca. 1/3 grams of fat, according to Wolfram Alpha ). A modified printing calculator inside the elevator cabin keeps track of the wasted energy, automatically adding up 5.9 Kilojoules for each half cycle. The results of this symbolic calculation – which does neither regard energy loss by friction, nor a heavier cabin due to possible passengers – go straight to a waste bin, located beneath the printing calculator.

The hardware in the staircase includes only ropes and pulleys. Inside the elevator, there is a printing calculator which is controlled by an ATmega8 via a relay board, programmed in AVR-GCC. The relay board basically ‘pushes’ the buttons of the calculator, performing the calculation “5.9+=” seven seconds after the door has closed.

Project Page

The installation was produced during a residency at WRO Art Center, funded by Goethe Institute Cracow. It is now part of the collection of the WRO Art Center.

Previously on CAN: Lumenoise [Objects]PING! Augmented Pixel [Tutorials, Games] and My little piece of Privacy [Processing]


  • PING! Augmented Pixel [Tutorials, Games]PING! Augmented Pixel [Tutorials, Games] Augmented reality video game - by Niklas Roy (2011) In the decade where videogames were born, everything virtual looked like rectangular blocks. From today’s perspective, the representation of a tennis court in the earliest videogames is hard to distinguish from a soccer or a basketball field. ‘PING! – Augmented Pixel’ is a seventies style videogame, that adds a layer of digital information and oldschool aesthetics to a video signal: A classic rectangular video game ball moves across a video image. Whenever the ball hits something dark, it bounces off. The game itself has no rules and no goal. Like GTA, it provides a free environment in which anything is possible. And like Sony’s Eyetoy, it uses a video camera as game controller. What I found interesting when I developed this game, is, that it could have been made already in the seventies. The technology that I used for it is (in a way) similar to what Atari used for the first Pong. It becomes even more awkward, if you think that the electronic components for capturing and evaluating a video signal are cheaper than the rotary game controllers that Atari used. But still, from an economic point of view it makes sense that Eyetoys weren’t the ultimate controllers of thirty-something years ago, as a video camera was probably very hard to afford back in the days. For those who want to know how it works: The game is programed with AVR-GCC on an ATmega8 microcontroller that runs with 16MHz. The controller gets basic videosignal synchronisation information from an LM1881 sync separator that triggers two hardware interrupts. One for a new image, the other one for a new line. The controller evaluates the brightness around the pixel (/ball) via its comparator input. Drawing the white image overlay is realized with a simple pull-up resistor in the signal line. More (hires) images can be found here. C source code can be found here. Since several people in the Interwebz told me that they want to rebuild the game, here are some more photos of it. I also uploaded the schematics, the perfboard layout and a parts list in this pdf. Case closed. And opened. Nothing special here: There’s a 9V battery, a little circuit board and all the switches. A closer look on the circuit board. And the board seen from the bottom. Remember: You can find drawings of this all here. Here’s a trick: The power supply lines of the Atmega8 are criss-crossed. I always go with the +5V wire over the IC socket in order to connect the left and the right power pins. That avoids a messy circuit design on the solder side of the board. When you want to build your own “PING!”, you have to program the microcontroller. I use this cheap ISP programmer that I bought here. If you just get started and want to know in detail how to program an AVR – here’s a great tutorial. Sorry folks, this link is German only. But Google will also find you a good English source. (Here’s a hint: Once you’re the proud owner of an ISP programmer, you will likely never spend money anymore on Arduinos, as you can make them yourself, then. But there’s another thing: Once you’re familiar with programming your Atmel using straight AVR-GCC, you’ll probably never want to use an Arduino anymore.) The Fusebit settings for the controller are clear: Just tell the controller to use the external crystal as clock. (SUT_CKSEL) For the case, I used a U-shaped extruded aluminum profile. The different metal parts are all built out of the same profile. And a look from the other side. That’s it so far about the hardware. Concerning the firmware: Be aware, that the program is for PAL video systems only. If you want to play this game on your NTSC system, you have to adapt the timing parts of the source code. A big congratulations goes out to the first one who posts a link to a functionning code for NTSC video signals in the comments. I’ll link it here with name and credits and all. To help you understand both, the source code and the schematics, I’ve explained it already in the comments on Hackaday: … here’s how it works: Drawing onto the signal/image: One output of the AVR is connected via a 1K resistor to the video signal. Switching this output to HIGH rises the signal about a few mV -> the image becomes brighter, then. Digitizing the video image: Doesn’t happen. Instead, only the brightness of the area around the pixel is captured. Imagine a grid of 3×3 squares. The square in the middle is the pixel. When the signal is at this middle position, the output that draws on the video is switched to HIGH. If the signal is within one of the eight areas surrounding that pixel, the AVR compares the specific brightness (Voltage level) of that area with a threshold. That’s how an obstacle and its position in relation to the position of the pixel is detected. Calculating the animation: When the beam (or signal) has finished drawing the lower white bar, there’s plenty of time to calculate the new position of the pixel until the next image has to be drawn. As it is all synced with the video signal, this animation happens smooth. Couldn’t happen more smooth. An animation ‘pixel by pixel’ is also no problem, as it is all about counting video lines (y) or delaying within a specific video line (x). This also explains why the starting animation is rendered smooth. And it also means, that there is a delay until the pixel reacts: It reacts in the next image that is drawn. No magic here. Speed of the processor: The AVR is clocked with a 16MHz quarz. The duration (only image content) of one PAL video line is 64uS. => There are 1024 clock cycles per visible part of each video line. That’s really sufficient for what the program has to do: Which is mainly waiting, a bit of counting and sometimes reading the internal comparator bit or switching an output. Ok, that’s enough of information. With all those tips, you should be able to build your “PING!”, now. Send me some photos of it, when you’re done! -- This post first appeared on Niklas Roy's website - PING! Augmented Pixel Niklas Roy is a Berlin based artist. He mainly works on mechatronic installations and devices. From time to time he carries out performances in which his inventions play a central role. Roy really doesn’t like to write about himself in the third person but he "is one of the most facetious characters of the 'new media art' […]
  • Pneumatic Sponge Ball Accelerator at the Tschumi PavilionPneumatic Sponge Ball Accelerator at the Tschumi Pavilion Inspired by CERN's "Large Hadron Collider", Niklas Roy creates an installation at the Tschumi Pavilion in Groningen in the Netherlands that contains 1000 black sponge balls, which are sucked through 150m of transparent pneumatic tubes at high […]
  • Lumenoise [Objects]Lumenoise [Objects] Developed during the few days residency at La Gaîté Lyrique, Lumenoise is a project by Niklas Roy that enables you to turn your old CRT-TV into an audiovisual synthesizer. Using a specially devised pen, you paint abstract geometric patterns and sounds directly onto the screen. Niklas calls it a playful and performative device, as anything that you do will cause an instantaneous reflection in the gadget’s sonic and visual output.  I was always fascinated by light pens as I think they have a somewhat magical touch. Today it is normal to interact with devices by touching onto their screen. But old CRT screens didn't have a touch sensitive surface – and still, due to the particular way a raster scan tube draws an image, it is quite easy to find out the location of a little photo transistor on its surface. Engineers have found out about this simplicity very early and implemented the first light pens already during the middle of the last century. If you're interested in computer history, watch this fascinating 1956 IBM video about the SAGE project. At minute 4:30 you can see a light gun (the light pen's predecessor) in action. Furthermore, the film features beautiful background music, which you deserve after watching the Lumenoise screencapture. Niklas explains that unlike modern flat TV’s, old school CRT’s draw the image line by line onto their phosphorescent screen. A photo transistor, placed on a tube TV’s surface, can recognize when the part of the image is drawn underneath it. The transistor is connected with a micro controller which generates the video signal, the controller can localize the exact position of the photo transistor on the screen. Photo transistors – however – have a very high resolution in time. They respond very quick to minimal changes of brightness. Placed on the surface of a CRT-TV, a photo transistor can recognise the exact moment when the beam passes at its location. It changes its conductivity according to brightness changes, so with a little voltage divider circuit, you can read the voltage peak that the electron beam causes on a digital input pin of a micro controller. For making your own audio visual light pen synthesizer, Niklas has made all the code and schematics available for you to download. The circuit only requires a hand full of parts and is built around the ATmega8. Although Niklas succeeded squeezing all the components inside the pen, he recommends you not to do so and try to build the setup a bit larger on perfboard instead. The project is coded in AVR-GCC which makes it easy to hack and to develop further (the current code uses only half of the 8K memory). When you download the zip file with the codes, in addition to the final program you will also get some stable earlier versions of it. They are more lean and easier to understand, which makes them a good foundation for coding your own synth, which will produce different visuals and sounds. For more information on the project including code and schematics, see niklasroy.com/project/116/Lumenoise See also on CAN: PING! Augmented Pixel, an intelligent curtain and "My Lttle Piece of Privacy" Ver 2.0 named "Big Brother", all by Niklas […]
  • Esper Domino [Objects]Esper Domino [Objects] Developed by Jarashi Suki and the IAMAS Ubiquitous Interaction Research Group in 2009, Esper Domino is a wireless network, connected between the domino blocks allowing them to interact without physical contact. Each block, can fall over when it receives a signal from the previous block, simultaneously sending a signal to the next block. The project attempts to portray the notion of "stored energy", remembered as sensation which can be experienced by "seeing" something happen. Currently on display as part of the 14th Japan Media Arts Festival. More projects by Jarashi are available at works.jarashi.tv /via make + japantrends.com Previously: Suki Jarashi [Profile] - 3 projects by […]
  • M_OC

    The is the craziest thing in the history of crazy things! I love it.