The design consultancy and cloud services firm Berg seems to have a fixation on mixing digital and analog, using web connectivity to enhance otherwise dull objects, from paper to a cuckoo clock. Its latest experiment brings those same elements together to create a sign that can have its display changed from the web, even though there's nothing electronic on the display itself. Called the Pixel Track, the sign is built around what Berg is calling "mechanical pixels" — basically little blocks that flip back and forth between two different colors. In one case, the sign might use black blocks to represent pixels that are "off" and white blocks to form letters out of the pixels that are "on."
"Works a little bit like a toy railway track."The sign is a long, thin strip just five blocks high, and multiple signs can apparently be placed side by side to form increasingly long displays. Behind the display is what Berg says is effectively a Hot Wheels track that allows a small scanner to run back and forth along it, flipping the mechanical pixels on command. Only the scanner is connected to the web, limiting how much battery it needs to run. And because the display has nothing electronic on it, it will permanently maintain its state until the scanner changes it again. Berg says this should allow the entire system to run on battery power for a long period of time.
Berg only put Pixel Track together as a case study, to see if it could find a solution for displays that need to be updated occasionally — from hourly to daily — but don't need constant status changes. It doesn't sound as though Berg is about to start selling them yet, as it has with other quirky products like the Little Printer, but Berg does say that it's successfully created the Pixel Track and is interested in actually trialling an installation with a partner.