This Digital Sundial Tracks the Sun Through a Laser-Cut Cube

Sure, sundials are totally impractical in the age of precise atomic clocks, but this digital sundial cube is still the coolest. Made out of 59 plates of metal cut to match the angle of the sun at different times of the day, the Sun Cube casts a dot-matrix number to mark each hour.

Toronto-based artist Daniel Voshart recently shared the prototype for his digital sundial on reddit, which he spent a month making for his father's birthday last July. (The sundial is digital in the sense it displays digits, not that it's electronic.)

There are some limitations to the Sun Cube compared to a traditional clock, however. It only works the 15 days before and after his father's birthday. And within 100 miles of a specific spot on Earth. And only for about 40 years because of the changing tilt in Earth's axis.

So maybe don't throw out your clock yet. "A friend wanted to [do] a kick-starter for this, for the GE inventor series. I wouldn't let him I was like 'no, it's not interesting,'" says Voshart in Placeholder Magazine, "It's an obscure toy that works in one part of the world. And it's a clock. It's inventing something that is actually worse than what exists on the market. A cereal box has more functionality,"

This Digital Sundial Tracks the Sun Through a Laser-Cut CubeThis "clown hair" is the wireframe view of each extrusion through the cube. Can you make out the numbers?

This Digital Sundial Tracks the Sun Through a Laser-Cut Cube

Laser cutting file for the Sun Cube

But if I may dispute the artist himself, I think the limits of the Sun Cube are exactly its charm. With some careful engineering, a dumb little piece of metal becomes, like a smartphone app, location- and time-aware. Think of it not as a clock but as a box whose secret message be only read in a specific time and place—a personalized present, or a scavenger hunt clue. Can you imagine an archeologist 500 years from now examining this Sun Cube in a museum far away, puzzled at its exact purpose?

The Sun Cube is also reminder that time is not just an abstraction—a number we see on illuminated screens any hour of the day or night. Before the invention of the clock, our understanding of time came from watching the movement of the Earth and sun and stars. Time passes, accompanied by the slow dance of the heavens. [Daniel Voshart via Visual News]

This Digital Sundial Tracks the Sun Through a Laser-Cut Cube

All images via Daniel Voshart