When his son asked for a Harry Potter themed birthday, Adam Thole decided to borrow an idea from Universal Studios’ The Wizarding World of Harry Potter which lets visitors cast spells using interactive wands.
The results are quite possibly the most magical smart home upgrade you’ve ever seen, and one that’s not terribly difficult to build.
This is isn’t the first wand-based controller we’ve seen. Way back in 2012 we tried a motion-sensing magic wand TV remote from Kymera, but it somehow made simply changing channels an act of frustration.
Kano’s Harry Potter Coding Kit was definitely a big improvement, thanks to upgraded motion-sensing technology baked into the wand’s hardware that actually worked as claimed.
But Thole’s solution is even more clever as his wands can be cheaply 3D-printed and don’t require any tech inside whatsoever; just a highly-reflective tip.
So, in lieu of actual magic how does this smart home upgrade actually work? Thole designed a custom Raspberry Pi Zero powered spell detector that relies on a camera paired with four infrared illuminators. The IR light that fills the room is invisible to the human eye, but it causes the tip of the wand to glow brighter than almost everything else the camera sees.
The software powering the detector takes the live feed from the camera and processes it using some basic brightness adjustments so that the tip of the wand becomes easy to track. The motions of the wand are recorded and used to generate a single long exposure image that reveals what gesture the wand’s wielder was trying to make.
From there the shape of the gesture is compared to an existing database, and if a match is found, a series of specific commands are then triggered through an open source application called Home Assistant.
Thole’s setup allows a wand to turn lights on and off, change the colour of a room, control music playback, and even start a popcorn machine. Not exactly as compelling as what even a first-year Hogwarts student can do with a wand, but muggles have to take what they can get.
If you want to try your hand at building your own wizard inspired smart home system, Thole has provided thorough instructions and downloads to all the requisite files he used on his website.