Creepy fairground attraction and Twitter App!

The Psychic Hive-Mind Fortune Teller is a fairground arcade-type attraction which can tell your fortune. Even better than that though - it's also a web-connected Twitter application that can harvest tweets and regurgitate them as fortune readings!

The Fortune Teller reads the mind of a twitter discussion. It takes people's thoughts from their tweets, then deconstructs them into base content. It then reconstructs that content with randomised connecting text fragments to create the fortune reading. By doing this, it creates readings which are not just unique, but also context-specific and completely up-to-date as they are generated from current discussion happening live in real time.

As well as speak your fortune and tweet it back to you, it also has a window into its brain, through which you can see the inner thoughts of the twitter discussions it is scanning.

What can you get from this Instructable?

This Instructable shows you
  • Hacking social media data to power a physical device
  • Twitter - using OAUTH connections to access Twitter data
  • Google - using spreadsheets and their feeds as quick-and-dirty data servers
  • Arduino - how to make a computer programme event be triggered by a physical interaction (button push)
  • Box-building - really basic with glued-on paper printouts as typographic quick fix
  • Computer keyboard hacking - remodelling a standard computer keyboard to use as a restricted interface
  • Consumer car video hardware as display - how to connect up a primitive car video screen as a monitor 
  • Processing - a sketch that can connect to Twitter using OAUTH to harvest tweet content
  • Processing - use of text-to-speech library for speaking auto-generated text
  • Processing  - Randomised sentence construction for pseudo artificial intelligence
  • Processing - visualisation of data
  • Processing - using simple remote-access admin settings
  • Hacking old audio kit - hacking apart a simple computer audio amp to power the sound
Parts list:
  • Face mask (optional)  - Clay, silicon mould rubber, latex, roll-on deodorant balls
  • Head and Shoulders - A broken shop dummy
  • Visualiser/interaction screen - Car reversing monitor plus video driver box
  • Box - 6mm exterior plywood, hot glue (or wood glue), wood off cuts, paint, varnish, lettering printed on standard printer paper, bolts, etc.
  • Internet connected computer (small laptop used here, but probably a Raspberry Pi would work?)
  • Active Twitter account
  • Old computer speakers with built in amplifier
  • Processing with various libraries installed
  • Doorbell button push
  • Arduino board
Tools needed:
  • Computer - Wireless-enabled PC (or Mac, whatever you use) with Processing 1.5 environment with various libraries, arduino environment
  • Box - basic stuff - handsaw, jigsaw, glue gun, paintbrushes, spray paint, drill/screwdriver etc.
  • Head - mainly just modelling tools for the face mask in clay, glue gun to stick it on. Fibre tip pens for colour highlights

Step 1: Psychic Hive Mind Fortune Teller in action and summary of what it is doing

The Psychic Hive Mind Fortune Teller is designed to be used at events where people are gathered and discussing online via Twitter. When people interact with the Fortune Teller, it gives them insights into the live Twitter conversations happening around them.

It is really a type of automoton, but one that can be tuned into the specific conversation of the event at which it is present. It just needs to be set up to target the event, then it will serve up real-time reflections automatically, based on the digital conversation happening around it. In effect, it reads the collective mind of the event, hence why it's called the Psychic Hive-Mind Fortune Teller. It can easily be programmed using simple admin settings that determine what it listens to on Twitter. These can be set remotely using a Google spreadsheet as a web database.

Here it is in action at museum-technology conference "MuseumNext", in May 2013, in Amsterdam.

This 47 second clip shows what an event-goer experiences when they come across the Psychic Fortune Teller - generally bafflement!


To have their fortune told, a person interacting with it just has to enter their twitter @username and press a physical button. The Fortune Teller's Twitter-app brain then reads tweets harvested in real time and dissects them into their component parts of usernames, hashtags, urls and other general words. It then rebuilds them with randomised sentence construction to generate rather leftfield recombinations. Finally it sends a tweet containing a summary of the fortune reading to the person's twitter account.

The Fortune Teller uses the irrestible appeal of freaky fairground things and plugs in the social web, piggybacking on some of the many data connections that we trace in our digital lives.

In using digital social media, aspects of our communal connections are translated into and back from data. The Fortune Teller uses this to create a new physical re-manifestation of our digital interactions. It ponders what it means to be part of a large-scale collective 'hive' conversation, how digital social media creates random and unexpected insights and connections with people clustered around interest, and reflects on the meaning of sharing ideas on the web.

But mainly it's just a little bit random :)

How it works

The automaton is tuned to an event discussion by being logged into Twitter. It is programmed to harvest tweets by conducting one of three searches. Usually this is a #hashtag search, but it can be set up to do a @username search or just a straight keyword search. It then extracts the basic content in four types
  1. The usernames of people who have sent the tweets being harvested
  2. Hashtags used in the discussion
  3. URLs sent round
  4. Finally a big list of all the words people have used to express themselves. 
It then constructs random fortune readings using these terms, that it speaks to the visitor, and then tweets them a summary.
Here are some other baffled looking people!

Psychic Hive Mind FortunePsychic Hive Mind Fortune

Psychic Hive Mind Fortune Psychic Hive Mind Fortune
<p>Love it! :)</p>
You could just cut the case only(inside circuits removed completely),fold the bottom trace to the back,add insulation on the bottom layer so keys are not being connected,and do the same thing on the second and third layers. <br>In that way,you could save the time and effort.
Weird and creepy, but cool!!
Hey thanks on both cases. It is intended to be slightly unsettling. That's always the mark of a good fairground thing. It is the slight sense of fear/unease that makes it exciting. :)
Wow. Excellent detailed write-up, and super-creepy effect!
thanks. took a few weeks to write up, so glad you liked it. appreciated <br> <br>check out my blog for ongoing making stuff. mostly as weird. occassionally food-related :) <br>http://makingweirdstuff.blogspot.com
Wow, this is creepy, good job!
many thanks. it has a creepier cousin too! <br>http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-a-remote-control-sentient-web-puppet-b/

About This Instructable


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Bio: I like making all sorts of stuff, out of found materials: furniture, wild food, whatever! I've learnt loads from generous people out there, so ... More »
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