Magic storybook writes whatever tale you want

Erin St Blaine created this magic storybook which uses Raspberry Pi, ChatGPT, and people’s imaginations to put endless original tales in the hands of readers.

Back in the dark recesses of the early 1990s, if you wanted more than one story to read, you had to keep loads of books in your room. This meant less shelf space for Beanie Babies and Sylvanian Families, which was a real Sophie’s Choice for my younger self. Past me is incredibly jealous of this build.

Hardware

How does the magic work?

The magnetic contact switch tells the book whether it is open or closed, so it can spring to life when a reader picks it up and go back to sleep when they close it. The USB microphone listens as a reader requests aloud the type of story they want, turning the NeoPixel light red to show it is listening, then green to indicate that ChatGPT is busy writing a story.

A Raspberry Pi runs software using OpenAI to leverage ChatGPT’s story-writing capability. The code is sophisticated enough to let the reader tailor their experience by choosing their own character names, story length, writing style, and many other personalised elements.

Magic storybook Adafruit

The magic-testers in the build video above asked for a story about a mermaid with a hundred pet jellyfish. ChatGPT quickly conjured up a story beginning, “In the depths of the ocean lay a mermaid kingdom ruled by Queen Luminia…”

How is the book itself made?

Once Erin had wired up all the hardware to the Raspberry Pi, she screwed it onto the back of the touchscreen, upside down to make it fit better inside the book jacket. She sourced a lovely, chunky old Thomas Moore poetry book from a rundown paper mill in California to house all the modern tech within its old-fashioned cover.

Hardware inside magic storybook

Erin hollowed out the book to leave a deep square hole through all of the pages. Next she glued together the cut ages to leave a papery frame for the touchscreen, and made holes in the stuck-together pages for the on/off switch and charging port. Craft foam fills the gaps between all the bits of hardware, making sure everything is snug and secure inside the hollowed-out pages. A magnet for the reed switch is hidden in the top inside corner of the book’s decorative endpaper.

Child reading the magical storybook

Gold-painted Auryn symbols from Never Ending Story add to the magical aesthetic as well as earning brownie points from millennials. Well, it worked for me. Wait, I get it — this build is a literal never ending story.

Want to make your own magic?

An excellent build guide is available on Adafruit’s website, detailing the software setup, electronics assembly, and decorative techniques. You’ll also find wiring diagrams and all sorts of other handy things to help you create your own magic storybook.

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