F21 Thread Screen displays Instagram images using fabric

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F21 Thread Screen was created to promote clothing brand Forever 21

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Most Instagram users probably check their feed with a smartphone or similar device. New York-based studio Breakfast, however, has created a machine that displays Instagram images and basic animations using thousands of spools of thread.

The device, dubbed F21 Thread Screen, is based at Breakfast's office near the Brooklyn Bridge, and was created to promote clothing brand Forever 21. It's an impressively complex piece of kit comprising over 200,000 parts, that took over a year and a half to build. Weighing in at 2,000 lb (907 kg), the F21 Thread Screen features 6.7 miles (10.7 km) of threaded fabric on its 6,400 spools.

Working like some kind of crazy cotton-spinning machine, the F21 Thread Screen is hooked-up to the internet, and Instagram posts that are hashtagged #F21ThreadScreen are collected, queued, and briefly displayed by displaying the correct colored fabric, before the system moves on to the next image.

It works somewhat similar to how pixels produce an image on a TV screen. "Each spool has a 5 1/2 foot [1.7-m]-long piece of threaded fabric that rolls over top of it, similar to a conveyor belt," explains Breakfast. "The fabric is made up of 36 colors, each 1 3/4 inches (4.4 cm) in length. Instagrams that are hashtagged with #F21ThreadScreen are automatically captured and optimized for the screen’s 80 x 80 resolution, then each spool’s motor drives the fabric to its appropriate color. Each ribbon also features a reflective strip which is scanned by an infrared sensor, which tells the machine the color each spool is currently showing, allowing for corrections for any slip that may occur."

The project will be streaming live online until July 28, and those who submit an image will be sent a link to a video of it being created on the firm's YouTube channel. Check out the video below to see our glamorous feline assistant Luna.

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