Yorick, the talking skull

I had an email on Monday morning from someone whose job title is “Witch Doctor/Marketing Specialist” from wedü, a US marketing agency. He introduced a talking skull called Yorick in the first line. It perked me up like no amount of Monday morning coffee was ever going to – thanks Marc!

Marc says: “Exhuming Yorick took a bit of doing. We tried bat wings and eye of newt, but ended up using an Arduino Nano and Raspberry Pi.”

You’ll find Yorick on Twitter at @wedurick. He’s a haunted, narrating skull: if you send him a tweet (by mentioning him) he’ll read your elegant wordsmithery aloud, live (or undead) on Livestream. Here’s a spooky sample, prerecorded for your shuddering pleasure:

The Pi is running a Python script that connects to Twitter’s API and feeds tweets from the live stream up to Google Translate’s Text to Speech, then plays the files back. If the Twitter content is too long for Google’s TTS, the tweet is split into multiple parts first.

Marc says:

To make him a bit more at home on Twitter, we’ve replaced RT with ‘retweet,’ # with ‘hashtag’ and some other ways to make him a bit less like grandma getting on the interwebs for the first time.

The audio is amplified through a USB speakers stuck in poor Yorick’s skull, and sent to an input pin on the Arduino. The Arduino polls the pin for analog value every 20ms, mapping the average value of the past 4 readings to a servo position for smooth and responsive jaw movement.

He’s an (ironically) headless system, and so the GPIO was used for a few handy status LED’s to let us know at a glance that he’s still functioning during his occasional quiet moments.

To play with Yorick, you just need to mention him (@wedurick) in a tweet. You can then watch him narrate on Livestream in real time. You can read more about how Marc and the team put Yorick together at wedü’s blog: and if you do visit their blog, you might want to scroll down right to the bottom for some Easter Halloween eggs. Just saying.

Got a Halloween project you think we might like to feature here? Email me!

7 comments

Andrew Schroeder avatar

Alas, I knew him Horatio!

Liam Reford avatar

I’d have called it Murray, the mighty demonic skull.

Graham avatar

I’d have called him Boni… now you’ve got me watching old episodes of The Trap Door on Youtube…

Jim Manley avatar

OMG! This just tickles my funny bone to no end! :D

I’ll see if our students can be inspired to do something like this – it would be spooktacular!

Hmmm … Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well, but I can’t seem to get to his page now. I guess he’s been Pi-dotted! :D

AndrewS avatar

Great way of solving a problem by hooking together different web services – very neat!

Ravenous avatar

What a piece of work is a Raspberry! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! (etc.)

AndrewS avatar

That which we call a raspberry by any other name would taste as sweet!

Alternatively: That which is now spoken by Yorick is sent remotely to him via a tweet!

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