Tragic Fate Ball Is a Morbid Spin on the Classic Toy

Stuart Gorman's Tragic Fate Ball is like a digital, and more morbid, version of the classic Magic 8-Ball.

The Magic 8-Ball has been in continuous production for 70 years and it is one of the most famous toys of all time. While its creator designed the Magic 8-Ball with inspiration from a "real" spirit writing device, it is nothing more than a novelty. Crack open a Magic 8-Ball and you'll find a simple piece of plastic floating in a noxious alcohol solution. But maybe the spirits can guide that plastic piece's orientation. If that's true, then surely they can also guide the answers given by Stuart Gorman's Tragic Fate Ball.

This Tragic Fate Ball is like a digital, and more morbid, version of the classic Magic 8-Ball. It looks similar and seems to tell the future. But instead of answering "yes or no" questions, it predicts your premature demise. Possible means of death include "running with scissors" and "falling whale." As with the standard toy, the answers present themselves when you flip the device over and look into its window. There, your fate gradually fades into existence on a small LCD screen. To drive home the deadly nature of this device compared to a Magic 8-Ball, a skull and crossbones adorns the top of the enclosure.

There are only a few electronic components inside of the Tragic Fate Ball. Those include an Arduino Nano board, a 1.6" LCD screen, three mercury tilt switches, and a lithium-ion battery. The Arduino controls the LCD screen via an SPI connection. A small amount of liquid mercury fills each switch and that facilitates an electrical connection when the switch is in the proper orientation. That saves battery life by only turning on the device when the user flips it over. The Arduino sketch selects a message with a randomly-generated number. It starts with a seed taken with the first two bytes from EEPROM and then increments the number by one. This is a far cry from a true random number generator (TRNG), but the spirits should be able to work with that just as well as they can a Magic 8-Ball.

Gorman designed the device's enclosure in SCAD and then 3D-printed it. He published those 3D models along with the Arduino code, so you can build your own Tragic Fate Ball.

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