Make Dune’s Gom Jabbar with a Raspberry Pi

Here’s one for all you Arrakids. From Michael D’Argenio comes this simple Raspberry Pi replica of the horripilating Gom Jabbar test from Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction novel, Dune.

We *think* they’ve just released a new movie about it? Something small and arthousey, no doubt.

Fear is the mind killer

Using an ultrasonic sensor, Raspberry Pi, and servo motor, Michael’s contraption successfully stabs you with the Gom Jabbar if you remove your hand from the agony box. And, by stab, we mean ‘taps you with a salvaged clock hand’, and by ‘agony box’, we mean…well, we still mean an agony box, but it’s a repurposed Adafruit cardboard one.

“In this project, I created a Python script that uses gpiozero to interface with an HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensor to detect the presence of a hand, and a servo to actuate the Gom Jabbar,” Michael explains in his Instructables project page. “Multiple processes are used: one for playing the audio and the other to constantly check the ultrasonic sensor to see whether the hand has been removed from the box and actuate the servo motor with the pin. If you leave your hand in for the duration of the test, you can remove it safely at the end. If you remove it before, you will be pricked with the Gom Jabbar.”

Start your own religio-political organisation

Like we said, it’s a simple build, but highly effective nonetheless. With the basics of the technology down, you can now go to town recreating your own screen-accurate agony-box prop, add some more leather straps to your Paul Atreides cosplay, terraform your own spice planet…

Be your own Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother

If you’d like to learn more about the inner workings of Michael’s project, head over to Instructables. And to check out what Alex believes to be “one of the funnest-looking personal websites” she’s seen in a while, turn up your speakers and check out Michael’s site.


Woodbeast Mound Stingy Thing avatar

Also, could be Flash Gordon’s Woodbeast test (arm in mound of stingy thing).
p.s. You are missing a ‘d’ from ‘release’ “…they’ve just release a new movie…”

Liz Upton avatar

Thank you – I’ll head over and fix that!

Jan avatar

Haha, and you used the video from the better, the original Dune movie. I don’t take how critics praise the current one, the older one is still a masterpiece in my opinion.

Liz Upton avatar

Careful! We’ve been challenging each other to duels in the office over this particular question.

Amy avatar

My favorite part of this? The irony that in the world of Dune having computers that work like this is forbidden. It’s a very cool creative project though!

Liz Upton avatar

A temporary Butlerian Jihad is exactly what I’m imposing on myself over Christmas, though; it’ll be nice to have a few days away from screens!

Nick avatar

Cool project, but just a heads up – the Gom Jabbar is the poison needle not the box of pain.

Alex Bate avatar

Yes. As I explained in the post.

W. H. Heydt avatar

Um… I read Dune when it was serialized in _Analog_, *before* it was published as a book. Two serials, actually, a two-part one and a three-part one.

Liz Upton avatar

Gosh, I’m jealous! What a thing to encounter when it was new!

It’s informed and coloured so much of the sci-fi that’s come since then. I’ve seen critics of the new movie complaining that it’s clichéd; which is just a demonstration that so many of its ideas were lifted by other movies and books that they’ve become tropes. It must have been something amazing for you when it first came out.

Wolf avatar

The Gom Jabbar is the poisened needle that is held to Pauls Throat. Not the box he puts his hand into.
Later on in the story his [BOOKS SPOILER DELETED].
The box has no name but is scary as hell.

Liz Upton avatar

I thought Alex made that clear in the blog post? (It’s quite hard to out-nerd us on Frank Herbert.)

Pheonix avatar

The Gom Jabbar was the thimble with the needle, the box was just “the box”

fLoreign avatar

As stated by others, your machine would be banned post Butlerian Jihad.

Jack Burton avatar

This should be the 2FA auth at a colo or server room. Brilliant. I want to IFTTT it or whatever, and have it do ssh commands or change bulb colors etc with a fail or success. I’m thinking even kinetic sand in the box or something that messes with you while you wait.

Andy Dallibar avatar

I hold at your neck a Gom Jabbar… need to fact check this you know. :-)

Liz Upton avatar

I really get the sense that people are reading a title, looking at a picture and rushing to comment.

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