Olga The Fortune Teller | The MagPi #131

Admiring glances across an office led to a creative partnership involving several Raspberry Pi models and some charming AI, learns Rosie Hattersley in the brand new issue of The MagPi.

Olga gets ChatGPT to foretell your fortune, sending it to a cloud server for Pico W to download and deliver as printed ticket
Olga gets ChatGPT to foretell your fortune, sending it to a cloud server for Pico W to download and deliver as printed ticket

Last issue, we brought you details of the Love Machine ChatGPT project which dished out compliments and sometimes sweets based on cutesy WhatsApp exchanges. Raspberry Pi staffers and The MagPi magazine readers weren’t the only ones to fall for its AI charms. A company that shares office space with Love Machine makers Kakapo Labs were equally entranced, and soon made a move, proposing a coupling up and a glow-up! The result: Olga The Fortune Teller, a shiny new ChatGPT model designed to appeal to the Insta-savvy influencer keen to check out both the latest skincare options and receive reassuring messages about their future fame and follower count. 

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Altered images

Olga The Fortune Teller was designed in partnership with AlterD, a company that designs displays for retailers. Both companies are based at Hone, a creative space in East London. The team from AlterD was on the look out “for something visually attention-grabbing”, saw Kakapo’s Love Machine, got talking to its makers, and things went from there.

After a brief WhatsApp chat, the booth prints out a pronouncement
After a brief WhatsApp chat, the booth prints out a pronouncement

With a retail display trade show coming up imminently, AlterD chose a cardboard-based design to show off the material’s possibilities. “It was important that it didn’t look too specifically like any particular brand, so they went for a fun, quirky, dream-like look. They wanted to add an interactive element to encourage people to interact with the stand and start conversations,” Kakapo Labs founder Will Lahr explains. 

Pico W controls the LED lights around Olga’s make-up mirror, as well as the servo motors creating her facial expressions, while another connects to the Zebra printer to produce the all-important fortune readings The MagPi
Pico W controls the LED lights around Olga’s make-up mirror, as well as the servo motors creating her facial expressions, while another connects to the Zebra printer to produce the all-important fortune readings

As with Love Machine, mobile connectivity was vital, so they chose a Pico W: “simple, low-cost and small but, at the same time, [it] can run a full wireless stack which is easy to use.” With MicroPython on the Pico W, things work painlessly and the development time is short. It’s used here to communicate with a Zebra thermal printer via an RS232 connection and prompt it to print out a stand visitor’s fortune ticket. ChatGPT is instructed to: ‘Pretend you are a fortune teller and tell the person you are talking to – who is called $NAME – their fortune in a poem of three or four short lines. Make sure their fortune is vague but positive! Include a lucky item (retail related).’

Colour-changing LEDs make the booth design more eye-catching and hide Olga’s cardboard outline The MagPi
Colour-changing LEDs make the booth design more eye-catching and hide Olga’s cardboard outline

A concurrent request is made to DALL-E (an image generator made by the same people as ChatGPT for a black and white cartoon image of a fortune teller. Fortune text and graphic are imported and encoded as an image that can be recognised by ZPL, the language used by the printer. Laggy performance processing and outputting the images led the Kakapo and AlterD team to switch from the unreliable existing WebSocket delivery setup. The “much better” system they implemented saves the ticket image online and just uses WebSocket to send Pico W the URL in order to download and print it.

Fortune favours

Olga herself is, of course, a large part of the appeal. She has a face cut from a sheet of perspex and some extremely expressive eyebrows thanks to a Pico W, micro servos, and some black thread that help them wiggle. She also imparts her wisdom via a fancy new means of communicating (due to changes to ChatGPT that OpenAI recently implemented), but it’s still based on WhatsApp and Twilio, like Olga’s sibling, the Love Machine (see The MagPi 130). 

Olga’s gorgeous face and expressive eyebrows were laser-cut The MagPi
Olga’s gorgeous face and expressive eyebrows were laser-cut
Olga can hypnotise even the most casual passer-by into having their fortune told…
Olga can hypnotise even the most casual passer-by into having their fortune told…

The brief from AlterD was for a playful interactive display showing off the possibilities for retail settings. However, Will points out that creating something very quickly and efficiently using several Pico Ws (which, being connected wirelessly, avoids the need for long cable runs), making use of simple web services has all sorts of potential. “We’ve been exploring more possibilities for interaction through a shop window – using a phone as a device to let someone outside the window play with something inside the window,” he says, and is up for collaborating with other partners for more fun, playful projects.

“Olga may not be able to predict the lottery or tell us when the cost of living crisis will end, but what she can do is offer a glimpse into the future of interactive retail experiences.”

The MagPi #131 out NOW!

You can grab the brand-new issue right now from Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, WHSmith, and other newsagents, including the Raspberry Pi Store in Cambridge. It’s also available at our online store which ships around the world. You can also get it via our app on Android or iOS.

The MagPi issue 131

You can also subscribe to the print version of The MagPi. Not only do we deliver it globally, but people who sign up to the six- or twelve-month print subscription get a FREE Raspberry Pi Pico W!

The free PDF will be available in three weeks time. Visit the issue page for more details.

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