Tech as Art: Breakfast NY
we've spoken before about how our new minigrow concept is meant to be an experience. By utilizing local art created by Dutchess & the Queen, we were able to deliver a colorful, engaging mural to our inaugural honeygrow location, but we felt the overall minigrow experience could be elevated even further... enter BREAKFAST NY + their mesmerizing flip-disc display. Spanning 10 feet and containing over 1,000 "pixels" (which are, in reality, small paper discs), the flip-disc board present at our 285 Madison Ave location takes the guest experience to the next level. Offering witticisms, interactive messages, videos + other designs, the display provides not only another avenue for us to communicate with our guests, but (hopefully) a way for those very same guests to connect with minigrow on a deeper level.
BREAKFAST NY aren't just manufacturers of flip-disc tech, they also excell in other exciting designs such as the Luster hashtag printers, a display made up of 6,400 spools of thread, and artificial intelligence for a blimp (among many other projects). We recently connected with the co-founder of BREAKFAST NY, Zolty, to learn more about the company's origins + what inspires them to push the creative boundaries on technilocigal solutions...
hg: first things first, the name. Why ‘BREAKFAST’? You’ve had to have been mistaken in searches made by hungry New Yorkers…
zolty: when we started our company eight years ago, we were very green when it came to hardware. We learned early on that the only way to develop strong skills with electronics and mechanical engineering is to experiment and break stuff, quickly. BREAK-FAST.
hg: your team is relatively small considering the large projects you take on. Who makes up the BREAKFAST NY team + what’re their roles within the group?
zolty: there are six people that make up the core of BREAKFAST, including Mattias Gunneras (Founder/Tech), Mike Lipton (Founder/Biz), Mick Maloney (Head Software Engineer), Andrew Laska (Head Mechanical Engineer), Colin Bain ( Jr. Industrial Engineer) and myself (Founder/Design). We believe strongly that to make something truly innovative, the less people the better. We've worked hard to go as far as we can with the fewest people possible.
hg: how did the team come together + form BREAKFAST NY? What motivates the team each day to continually push the envelope of what is expected of new tech?
zolty: Mattias + I met many years ago at a company where we were creating very artistic, high-tech online experiences (Flash website days). We developed an mutual interest in bridging our design + engineering skills into the real world via custom, connected hardware. The desire was to find more intriguing, more beautiful ways to bring digital experiences into our lives that didn't rely on the use of glowing screens.
What motivates us today is to push our craft further than ever. We have developed many new skills over the years and we're just beginning to explore what happens when we take all we've learned and apply it to a new creation.
"We have just begun to scratch the surface here, and have big dreams of what's next."
hg: your projects marry cutting-edge technology with top tier design to create revolutionary, memorable creations. Why is it important to keep the design of the product in mind when idealizing these builds?
zolty: we are artists that work at both the experiential + aesthetic level. The first reaction people have to our work is from afar and to see it for what it does. The second is when they step closer to how it does it. In both spaces we look to achieve a feeling of awe and amazement, which is much harder when they step closer. It's in the details and design that we get obsessive. This is why our work is often most impressive when your face is only millimeters from it.
hg: what are some of the more notable projects you’ve worked on in the past? Any which were particularly rewarding?
zolty: our Thread Screen was one of the most challenging and rewarding pieces we ever created. It's made of over 200,000 parts, all which were design by us and hand assembled. People often reference Alan Turing's Enigma-cracking machine when they see it in person. The mechanics are a work of art unto themselves.
hg: any ideas that didn’t quite make the final grade? What about ideas which are a bit… out there… but that you’d still like to see brought to life one day?
zolty: there are many of our ideas that haven't made it into the world, but that doesn't mean they won't. The way we operate today is by brining our new pieces to potential buyers and brands to see if they have interest in them. Our work these days is more aligned to permanent public art rather than one-off marketing pieces. We're currently developing a new concept that we'll begin showing in the next few months, with the hope to sell 3 to 5 customized versions of it.
hg: one of your more recent projects, the Flip-Disc Display, can be found in our inaugural minigrow location at 285 Madison Ave in Manhattan. Tell us a bit about what inspired these displays + how they work.
zolty: we created the first version of our Flip-Disc Display display 6 years ago, after we got our hands on some older panels you'd likely find on the front of a bus telling you its destination. A Flip-Disc is a physical disc that flips over from one color to another using an electromagnet, and makes a small sound when doing so. We realized they'd make for a mesmerizing display if we could get the discs to flip much faster than the 4 FPS they were designed for.
We were able to rework the hardware and software to achieve 18 FPS, and released a 20 foot long, reactive display in mid-town Manhattan. In late 2016, we found that a good amount of people were reaching out to us interested in developing a custom alternative to installing another LED wall in their spaces, but didn't have the large budgets that come with a complete custom installation. We wondered if there was a market for a modular, off-the-shelf kinetic display. We began surveying the market and found that there indeed was, and 7 months later we began shipping our first modular units that can achieve 40 FPS.
hg: we utilize the display to further engage (+ have a bit of fun) with our guests. How have other businesses utilized the technology in their environment?
zolty: we have now installed Flip-Disc Displays in many locations across the country, including the new Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. Each owner has experimented with the display to varying degrees, but at the end of the day most have found our interactive Particles App to be the crowd pleaser. This is where people can interact with a graphic on the display, seeing themselves made out of discs, while being able to knock away the pixels of the graphic.
hg: what’s the next step in the evolution of the Flip-Disc Display? What’s the ultimate vision for this project?
zolty: we're still in the very early days of this product, but we opened up the platform as much as we could to see what others are able to do with it. We've had several conversations with universities about installing large displays where students would be able to write their own software to create custom art and experience their entire schools can experience.