A Revolving, Interactive Sign That Points The Way To Pretty Much Whatever

June 6, 2013 by Dave Haynes


What’s dubbed the world’s most advanced directional sign handles live data feeds, rotates and points and takes requests.

It’s the work of Breakfast, a New York company that is somewhere between an interactive agency and an industrial design team. These are the guys who did this cool electromagnetic dot display thing I wrote about last year.

In this case, the Breakfast guys re-imagined directional street signs and made them interactive and better, though nowhere near as rugged or cost-effective.

The result of three years of R&D, the goal of the Points signs was to make the things look like street signs, but be much more. “Packing motors, gears, sensors, wiring, and a support structure into a such a compact package, however, was far from an easy feat,” says the company on its website.

The three signs can rotate 360 degrees each, using rotary electrical interfaces that allow the arms to endlessly spin in either direction, removing the issue of tangled wires. “While this solves one problem,” says the company, “it creates another: knowing the exact position of each arm at all times. To accomplish this, Points utilizes a 200 pulse per rotation quadrature encoder, allowing it to know its exact rotational degree at at any given point. It also features a magnetometer and touchless magnetic switches that assist in always keeping it pointed in the right direction.”

pointsconnected2The signs have a little push button control pod that can let users request what they want to find, and it can be parted to show different things by different times of day.

The signs themselves are 16,000 LEDs. “The super-bright LEDs panels that make up each arm’s display were custom designed to look beautiful, be highly reliable, and perform in a wide range of environmental conditions. Their wide viewing angle allow the displays to be easily readable from any direction, while Pulse Width Modulation achieves the greatest brightness and the ability to handle complex fading.”

The units are designed right now as rentals for events like conferences and concerts. They are made of milled aluminum but are not yet (that’s on the roadmap) designed for permanent, all-weather usage.

What runs on them is handled by a management system of some sort that ingests data like RSS feeds and social media APIs. It can handle things like geo-location, and encourages live tests. I tried tweeting with the #PointsSign hashtag and it worked very quickly, showing up on a live cam (see left side of image below) in the Breakfast office.


This would be very cool in things like convention and conference centres where crowds are relatively tame, or in large facilities with lots of security. I would not want to be on the hook for potential damages renting one of these things at a Motorhead concert, or pretty much any concert other than Boston Pops.

There is a giant mountain to climb to make them truly durable outside, not only tolerating changing weather but the endlessly bad behaviour of people.

Still, very nice work and lots of potential if carefully applied.

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