What time is it? Time for a clock that counts the hours with rhyming AI-generated poems.
“Colors mingle, brush takes flight. Three fifty-seven, a palette of light,” one rhyme reads. Reads another, “Tick-tock the clock strikes four fifty-four. Time to sit and relax. Don’t work anymore.”
The whimsical Poem/1 clock by London product designer Matt Webb displays a new poem every minute, like a roided Shakespeare for the digital age. Sometimes the couplets are silly, sometimes lyrical. They’re always co-written by ChatGPT, the OpenAI online chatbot that’s stirred up amazement, amusement, apprehension and endless creative experiments since its introduction in 2022.
Webb, who runs design studio Acts Not Facts, originally whipped up a prototype for the clock in March 2023 while playing around with OpenAI’s language models. He cracked himself up with the invention, and others had a similar reaction after Webb shared photos of the invention on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Pure genius,” one X user responded to the tweet, which went viral, pulling in 848,000 views. “Make this into a product and retire.”
Kicking Hard On Kickstarter
Webb hasn’t retired yet, but he has decided to get the clock on nightstands other than his own. On January 30, he launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Poem/1 that as of this writing has raised more than $69,800 toward its goal of just over $100,000, which will go toward manufacturing costs and AI and server fees. Campaign backers who contribute $125 or higher will get a clock, estimated to be delivered in August (keep in mind, of course, that not all Kickstarter projects deliver on time, or as promised).
“Poem/1 is often profound, as it should be because I wrote that in the prompt to the AI,” said Webb, who co-founded design consultancy Berg and served as its CEO and wrote the book “Mind Hacks,” an exploration of the brain’s workings. “But it is also often weirdly motivational, and sometimes very odd, referring to the cosmos frequently, and balloons.” (One midday verse: “It’s almost noon, don’t be a loon! Can’t you see the sun shining high as a balloon?”)
Webb’s past projects include a book vending machine that tweeted every time it made a sale. His little Wi-Fi-enabled timepiece projects its short, two-line rhymes on an encased e-paper display. The screen’s not backlit, so it naturally picks up ambient light. The Poem/1 promises a constant rotation of fresh poems, so today’s rhyme about 10:18 a.m. will be different than yesterday’s.
“We have a machine-poet velocity of 0.5 million poems/year,” Webb joked over email. “There’s a new unit of measurement for you.”
No Subscription Fees, Please Oh Please
Webb expressed determination to minimize the AI resource cost to avoid subscription fees. “The way to achieve this is to compose the poems once, and share them out to all clocks,” the designer said.
To bring the device to market, Webb is collaborating with London-based industrial design firm Approach Studio and Tom Armitage, a technologist and hardware engineer.
His clock does come with a caveat. On rare occasions, Poem/1 fibs the time as it angles to make a rhyme work.
“This is called hallucination in the AI world and is part of the charm of the clock,” Webb said, “but Poem/1 owners should not rely on its timekeeping ability in situations such as athletics competitions or rocket launches.”