Magic eight balls are a fun novelty, but it can be even more fun to build one digitally. Using an affordable Arduino computer board and a few key accessories, it is possible to make a virtual magic eight ball to deliver any set of random messages you like. It can hold an unlimited number of answers and you can set the options to whatever you like. It can even be made small enough to put inside a real magic eight ball’s case.
Why build a Magic Eight Ball?
There are several reasons to build a magic eight ball. Probably the most compelling is that it’s a great, relatively simple project to help you get started with Arduino projects. It includes a manageable introduction to both programming and physical assembly of electronic devices.
A digital magic eight ball can also be a lot of fun and a great novelty. Because you can program it with your own messages, it is easy to create something custom and even deeply personalised. You can make a custom set of answers to make your colleagues laugh or reference your favourite fandom. You could even use personal in-jokes to create a novelty magic eight ball as a gift for someone close to you.
What will You Need to Build a Magic Eight Ball?
There are several things you will need to create your own magic eight ball. The first and most important component is an Arduino computer board. These are affordable, small, lightweight computers ideal for powering electronics projects like this. A wide range of starter kits for Arduino projects are available on the market, and the selection continues to grow.
You will also need an LCD screen. This is necessary to enable the magic eight ball to display the answers it picks.
If you want the magic eight ball to produce a message when it is shaken, like a traditional magic eight ball, you will also need components to help it detect when this happens. For this, you will need an accelerometer in order to detect movement. You can set how much movement you want the device to count as shaking at the programming stage to ensure it does not get over-sensitive. Alternatively, you could skip the shaking and have it generate a phrase when some other condition is met, such as pressing a button. It this case, you will need the alternative input you wish to use.
The other truly vital central component you will need is knowledge of the Arduino programming language, or a willingness to learn. This will enable you to write a simple program telling the Arduino what the available messages are, and instructing it to pick one at random when it is shaken, or when it receives whatever other input you choose to incorporate.
Lastly, you will need a few basic electronic components to connect the different parts properly and get your magic eight ball working. Mostly, this just means that you will need access to a plentiful supply of wire. You will also need a potentiometer for controlling voltage to the LCD screen
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.