Until internet speeds were fast enough to make it feasible to share jpegs or GIFs, ASCII art—images created from text—served as a decent substitute. And while they seem antiquated now, the folks at Teehan+Lax Labs have breathed new life into the artform with this wonderful real-time display that uses simple segmented displays like you'll find in any alarm clock.

Powered by an Arduino and a Raspberry Pi, the self-contained D.I.G.I.T. display features a small camera at the top that turns whatever's in front of it into a crude representation created with half-formed letters and numbers. But as crude as the images look, they're still easy to recognize.

As a follow-up, the folks at Teehan+Lax are hoping to create larger installations of D.I.G.I.T. using giant versions of the display that would let people see their entire bodies recreated in ASCII art. And while there are no plans to sell the displays to the public, there's no reason a similarly-capable iPad app couldn't be created to simulate the same effect. [Teehan+Lax via designboom]