Echo Observatory: beautiful, tactile fractal explorer with knobs on

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I really don’t see the point. My personal objections:

  1. Magnifier just distorts things. TV makers dumped these as soon as the picture tubes got big enough.
  2. There’s probably a rectangular display in there somewhere. The circular screen just decreases screen space.
  3. The display seems low resolution and only yellow against the dark background.
  4. Single purpose sort of denies the reason for having a general purpose computer.
  5. Some of the knobs seem to just rotate a 2D fractal in 3D space.
  6. Fancy wooden case and brass knobs (and probably the price) scream The Sharper Image.

I guess I won’t get one. Grumble grumble oh well.


Begs for virtual reality treatment. Immersive 3d fractal world that can be morphed by a few controls…


There was a toy I had called "The AstroScope"


Everything is produced, polished, and assembled by Hultén himself in his one-man studio in Gothenburg, Sweden.

What a hack, right? Totally lame. This guy sucks.


Reminds me of Tom Jennings’ Obsolete Forgeries series, but less one-of-a-kind and more modern-computerish.

My favorite being the Trinity Diorama, an encased 3D topological map of the New Mexico WWII atomic test site, with scale-model quantities of radioactivity buried under the map. A built-in Geiger counter lets you scan the map to see the hotness of the landscape.

[The website is a bit broken - he sold his old domain for a taxable amount of money.]


Bah. I’d like to sniff at this but it’s exactly the kind of thing I’d be pleased with myself if I’d made, and done the way I would have wanted to do it.

Though, it does display that logo on startup, ruining the illusion that it might be some kind of exotic analog display. That’s a comfortingly terrible design choice.

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Hang on, if you freely admit that you don’t see the point of the object, how can you possibly have any “objections” to it - personal or otherwise - beyond its apparent pointlessness? You’ve admitted you have no idea what it’s for, so you therefore have no idea how well it’s fulfilling its intended purpose(s). That’s like objecting to a painting because it doesn’t have enough cup holders.


I think its frac-ing beautiful.

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I might be wrong, but I think that the knobs are varying parameters in the iterated function systems that generate the fractals. Sometimes that looks like a rotation in 3 dimensional space, but not all the time.

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Elegant and beautiful. The craftsmanship does a job at distracting you from the extreme complexity and originality.

First of all, “Not seeing the point” is not the same as “having no idea what it’s for.”

I have a pretty good idea of what it’s for, from the description here on BB and on the maker’s website. I’m not a mathematician, but I have done some reading about fractals at the Scientific American level for the last 35 years, and even programmed the Lorentz equations once upon a time. Having read the descriptions, my main reaction is, what’s the point of going to the trouble of making a (probably very expensive) real-time viewer for fractals, when it comes with such a shitty interface and no opportunity for absorbing anything about what’s really going on?

And why, in a more general sense, is “not seeing the point” incompatible with having objections? Language is not binary, so that by saying “I don’t see the point,” I’m not saying the thing is completely opaque to me, The video doesn’t consist of a series of totally black frames, and the descriptions are not written in some language I don’t understand. It is only by understanding it (via by a lousy video and limited descriptions on the website) that I was able to point out a few (IMHO) valid objections.

By “not seeing the point,” I’m saying that I don’t see the point in spending lots of money for a device that doesn’t seem to show the fractals very well, hides a lot of its potential, has fancy unlabeled knobs that completely prevents someone who is on the border between wanting to look at pretty designs and open to learning more from, well, learning more.

So I’m open to an updated design.

  1. Dump the magnifier. Just distorts things.
  2. Show the whole damn screen. If you want to avoid it looking like a computer screen, do something better than limiting the screen to a circle; maybe round the corners some.
  3. Label the knobs just a little.
  4. Increase the resolution
  5. Cancel #4 if the resolution is more than that visible in the video, in which case make a better video.

Good point. Didn’t think of that.

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This seems to be the first clue that the rest of your posts are going to nicely dovetail with your initial statement that [quote=“KXKVI, post:2, topic:75305”]
I really don’t see the point.

You seem to think that it’s for something more specific. That if you increased the resolution, undistorted the image, showed more of the screen (because of course fractals fit naturally into rectangles), and had more colors that the user would be to actually gain some more value from this device.

But seriously, what are you proposing you’d actually get out of this device if you actually did all those things you propose? Do you think this is supposed to teach math to the user? Are you disappointed that this painting of a guitar doesn’t teach you music? Maybe if Picasso had painted it in higher resolution…?

If you just want to learn about fractals, look them up on your phone.

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I think it’s been deliberately hobbled, like showing a 640 x 480 grayscale picture of a Picasso, and saying “no, you can’t go behind the curtain and see the real thing.”

That’s just silly. But the thing is a box. Why is the screen limited to a circle? Especially when there are no circular displays out there, meaning that a lot of the screen available is wasted.

Nope, it’s supposed to show fractals. In a reduced, distorted way. I think it should be possible to learn at least something from art. But I guess a lot of people don’t want to.

Given that Picasso painted with analog paint rather than digital paint, and presents an image that’s higher than the resolution of our eyes (unless maybe looked at with a microscope), it probably wouldn’t have been possible for him to paint at an effectively higher resolution.

I just think the choices made with this box were not very good. Over the years, I have seen lots of art pieces using modern technology that did not say to me “why on earth did the artist make those choices?” This one did.


I had to read a walkthrough to solve this thing in Myst.

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