Raspberry Pi fortune teller prints fortunes at the push of a button

If you’ve ever seen the movie Big, you might have wondered what it’s like to play with one of those cool fortune-telling cabinets like the Zoltar machine we see actor Tom Hanks use. Thanks to robot maker Kevin McAleer, now you can! McAleer is using our favorite SBC, the Raspberry Pi, to power his custom fortune-telling machine, Voltara, and has shared tons of cool details in his latest video showing off all the hard work.

According to McAleer, the idea behind this machine was to build something interactive that people could play with at Open Sauce — a San Fransisco-based convention featuring tons of cool makers in the Pi community and more. This fortune teller machine ended up the ideal blend of creativity and usability that’s sure to pique the interest of attendees lucky enough to press the big red button.

The way the fortune teller works is fairly straightforward. The main board powering the operation is a full-sized Raspberry Pi. It’s housed inside of a cabinet that’s designed with a fancy finish and glass box, much like the Zoltar cabinet from the film. A button is placed prominently on the front that, when pressed, will cause a receipt printer to produce a random fortune.

In this example, McAleer is using a Raspberry Pi 4 but you could easily get away with using something smaller, like a Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W, in its place. The button used to trigger the fortune request is an arcade button, which is appropriate given that this is supposed to replicate an arcade cabinet. The receipt printer is a thermal printer so you don’t have to worry about replacing ink, just thermal paper.

With a project like this, you can easily build up your own database of fortunes or messages for the Pi to choose from. In the demo video, McAleer is using a Unix-based program called Fortune designed to create messages using an existing table of various messages and quotes. That said, you could get really creative and print off anything you like from pictures to lucky numbers and more.

Plans are in the works to add a 3D head to move and add a visual representation for the Voltara fortune teller. If you want to get a closer look at this Raspberry Pi project in action, you can check it out over at Kevin McAleer’s official YouTube channel.