This Model Parisian Building Is Actually a Binary Clock

Arduino Technology
This Model Parisian Building Is Actually a Binary Clock

When you hear the word “clock,” the vast majority of the time this means something with either a series of numbers or a dial. Though these two concepts come in many different, and sometimes quite amazing, variations, truthfully they are not that much different.

Lucas, Victor, and Philippe Berbesson, along with Claire Protin, had a different idea. They wanted to “create a clock that does not look like a clock until you know how to read it.” They built a binary clock, where each of four columns signifies a certain digit in the HH:MM format. Though the concept of a binary clock isn’t entirely novel, they decided to make it in the form of a beautiful four-story building with lights that turn on and off as they would in an apartment.

The idea struck them when walking along the Seine in Paris, where most of the team lives, they watched a “building’s lights light up like a dollhouse.” They decided to take this concept and run with it. After eight prototypes, they are selling kits in various forms on Kickstarter. You can simply buy the electronics if you want to create your own model or, at a much higher sponsor level, they will actually create a custom building for you.

For those that would rather make something themselves, they’ve provided a tutorial on how to make your own on Imgur, an abbreviated version of which can be seen below. Though the idea is meant for this particular clock, the Arduino-based concept could be applied to any similar device.

At the heart of the DIY version is an Arduino Uno (thought the Kickstarter electronics come as a PCB), which controls 13 individual LEDs. Individual I/O pins light up the appropriate windowed section of the building. This design was originally tried with only an Arduino Uno by itself, but alone the Uno loses about a minute each day.

That may not sound like a lot, but when you’re consistently 30 minutes late for appointments after a month of use, this small amount of time adds up quickly. Eventually, they added a real-time clock (RTC) module, which fixed the issue. You can find and use the code for the original non-RTC version, or, for the slightly more complicated but much more accurate, RTC version.

Internally, baffles between each window section keep light from “leaking” into adjacent windows. This is a similar method to what you may have seen in other LED projects where a clean distinction between sections is important. It is a great concept to keep in mind.

Though I’m told that it would take a person roughly two days to make one of these building-clocks, it took the team two years to go from idea, to prototype, to something that could be introduced on Kickstarter. As of writing this, they’ve raised roughly four times what they originally intended, so they have certainly been successful. As for tips for others who might want to run their own Kickstarter in the future, they note that:

Our advice is to have a good idea of the production costs and already potential partners for the production, to have an accurate idea of how long it takes, how much it costs, choosing the right material…

Though they’re not yet in the fulfillment phase, this seems like very solid advice. After all, if you raise lots of money on Kickstarter, but end up losing money on each transaction, it could be a costly lesson!

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Jeremy is an engineer with 10 years experience at his full-time profession, and has a BSME from Clemson University. Outside of work he’s an avid maker and experimenter, building anything that comes into his mind!

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