Fortune Telling Machine

By Andrew Gregory. Posted

Cassandra is a fortune-telling machine, inspired by the Morgana arcade machine of the 1970s. A sensor detects a hand in the slot in the front of the machine, then a sound file plays a recording of a fortune-teller, while the video of a woman’s face talking is projected onto a white polystyrene model head. The cabinet’s plywood, and the coding is run off an old Mac mini.

Those are the bits that we can explain. What we can’t tell you is how unsettling it is. Maker Jen Allanson told us that Cassandra is never left alone for the public to come across: “The first part of the fortunes come from the Tibetan book of the dead, about 80% of which is about, well, death. There always has to be someone about, in case someone gets a fortune that upsets them”.

The recording that plays is randomised, but the magic of it is in watching how people react. “She might say 10 or 20 things to you, but you’ll only remember the one or two things that are relevant to you. The technology is just a mirror for us to see ourselves in. People want to be seen”.

Cassandra gives out trinkets apparently at random – she gave our editor Ben a small metal bee... just as he was on his way to pick up some honey.

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