Despite containing no actual magic, the Magic 8-Ball has been providing random answers to life’s important questions since 1950. But the iconic toy is over 70 years old now, and it’s about time for an upgrade for the 21st century. DJ Harrigan modernised the device so that it now responds with animated GIFs.
Instead of modifying an existing Magic 8-Ball, which would have involved hacking it open to remove the answer-covered icosahedron die as well as draining away about half a cup of alcohol dyed dark blue, Harrigan started from scratch and designed an over-sized 8-ball in Fusion 360 and then 3D-printed it. That explains why it’s lacking the high-gloss finish of the official version.
The Magic GIF Ball isn’t as pretty as a result, but the custom design allowed Harrigan to include all of the necessary support structures on the inside to securely hold a Raspberry Pi 3A+, an 1800 mAh Li-Ion battery, and a 1.3-inch 240×240 LCD display, so that there’d be zero risk of vigorous shaking damaging any of the electronics inside.
A gyro sensor detects when the Magic GIF Ball is being shaken, but everything else is handled by a custom Python script which simply displays a random stored GIF when the shaking stops. The original Magic 8-Ball included 20 unique answers — 10 of which were positive, with five maybes and five negative responses — but the Magic GIF Ball could potentially include hundreds of them and skew negative, positive, or completely random and just let the fates decide. It’s all dependent on the software and the developer. As always, it’s probably best to save your most important life questions for an expert or your therapist, not a toy.