Kevin McAleer's Voltara Is a Pint-Sized Raspberry Pi-Powered Zoltar Fortune Teller Replica

Inspired by a classic Tom Hanks movie, Voltara prints a fortune on demand — but is unlikely to make you big, however hard you wish.

Gareth Halfacree
1 month agoArt / HW101 / Python on Hardware

YouTuber and maker Kevin McAleer's latest project takes its inspiration from a classic Tom Hanks film, and uses a Raspberry Pi single-board computer to power a pint-sized replica of the Zoltar fortune-telling machine from Big — to be installed as an exhibit at the Open Sauce 2024 conference.

"I'm calling this Voltara," McAleer says of his miniature fortune-telling machine, brought to our attention by Adafruit. "It's based on […] Zoltar, from the movie Big with Tom Hanks, it's one of his first movies that he did. I remember [it], a long time ago — I think it was one of the first movies I saw as a teenager in movie theaters."

Kevin McAleer's latest project is a miniature version of the Zoltar fortune-telling machine — and, as he jokes, "it's not Big." (📹: Kevin McAleer)

The original Zoltar was, magic aside, a full-scale amusement machine with the upper body of the eponymous fortune-telling mystic housed within a glass case. McAleer's homage is somewhat more compact, designed for desktop use — and, no matter how hard you may wish it, is unlikely to make you big.

Inside the case is a Raspberry Pi 4 single-board computer (SBC) — "I've got a whole bunch of Raspberry Pi 4s lying around," McAleer explains," and I thought this would be quite a good use to run the Python code that makes all the magic happen" — connected to an arcade-style push-button and a thermal printer. When the button is pushed, a Python program uses the classic UNIX utility fortune to choose a message to be printed out for the visitor.

The housing for the project was 3D printed, and mimics the aged cabinet seen in the film — complete with a transparent upper portion where an animatronic miniature Zoltar will be installed, though at the time of writing McAleer had yet to build that portion of the project.

More information is available in McAleer's video, embedded above and on his YouTube channel.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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