Life Clock

Life Clock is a concrete-casted digital clock that displays your realtime age at all times. It is intended to sit on your desk as a reminder of your mortality.

The Concept

The clock is ticking. Time waits for no one. Every minute that you’re sitting at your desk is another minute away from something you passionately care about. How often do we waste time doing things that we don’t really want to be doing? How often do we forget that the clock is ticking? I wanted to create a physical reminder of our mortality so that we don’t squander our time.

Most of us have a clock. It’s either on our phone, on our, wrist, on our wall, or on our desks. But most of our clocks endlessly repeat the same cycle, subconsciously conditioning us to expect do-overs for wasted time. After all, it will be 10am again in 24 hours. I wanted to create a clock that will spur me to action rather than hold me accountable to arbitrary appointments and obligations I have throughout my day.

The Form

Out of all of the possible objects that tell time (ie. clock, watch, phone, sundial, etc.) I felt that a desktop clock was the most appropriate incarnation for the Life Clock. Desktop clocks don’t move. They are put in one place, and they just incorporate into and become a permanent feature of the environment. As a result, you have to confront it, or you have to make an effort to ignore it. This confrontational resting presence is exactly the persistent reminder we need that our time is ticking.

In addition to being a constant and unrelenting reminder, I wanted the clock to resonate with the indifference of time. Time waits for no one, and it doesn’t care about you. It just continues to move according to it’s own set-in-stone pace regardless of whether you make the most of it or not. Concrete is inflexible, cold, and static, so it works perfectly as a manifestation of time’s unrelenting persistence. Choosing concrete necessarily informed the shape of the clock because I had to design it in such a way that casting it in concrete would be doable.

The Process

The clock body was created with a novel 5-step process that I had never done before!

  1. 3d model the form in maya
  2. 3d print the form
  3. Create a silicon mold with the 3d printed form
  4. Cast the concrete in the silicon mold
  5. Turn the Raspberry Pi into a Clock

The first challenge in this process was designing a clock body that could be first 3d printed and then second, cast in concrete. Because I wanted to cast the clock in one piece—rather than in separate parts and assembling it afterwards—I had to make sure that I would be able to remove the concrete from the mold. This meant that all of the holes in the form had to be connected to one of the flat surfaces and not bend over itself.3D printing presented an interesting problem because the ultimaker wasn’t quite big enough to print the entire form in one piece. I had to deconstruct the form into 3 pieces that could be assembled and glued together to create the silicon mold. The mold itself was cast with a makeshift mold container that I fashioned out of scrap wood.

Something that I didn’t know about concrete is that it is actually incredibly brittle, so it tends to crack and not stay together all that well. Fortunately, I discovered this early enough and was able to test different ratios of concrete : water : nylon fiber to find one that would work how I wanted it to.

The last thing I needed to figure out was how to create the digital face part of the clock. I looked into using a raspberry pi, which was a bit overkill for this project, but I knew that I could get it working within a short time frame, and I found that it had this beautiful digital face that would be perfect for the feeling of the clock.

Inspiration

The main inspiration for the life clock came from a chrome extension called Motivation that displays a realtime count of your age every time you open a new tab. Using the extension causes a lot of anxiety because it reaches you at exactly the right time and begs the important question, “is this really what you want to be spending your limited time on?”


Let me know what you think of this project in the comments and find other projects here!

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