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Nuovo Oracolo Cittadino — New City Oracle

From street cartomancy, fortune-telling always went through a technological upgrade. Television brought nigh-time dedicated shows on tarot reading and internet platforms lead to online consultation services. And with some bigger sites already using outsourced call-centres for offering consultations, with machine learning technologies becoming as accessible as creating a Wix or WordPress site, AI fortune telling is just around the corner.

In the shape of a small shrine and decorated with hand-blown Murano glasses, the Nuovo Oracolo Cittadino invites passersby to ask for advice about the future. Trained on data from online horoscope archives, the oracle’s neural network displays on its screen original predictions based on a single starting word that people send through SMS or a dedicated webpage.

The Nuovo Oracolo Cittadino shows how emerging technologies can play a part in all aspect of our lives, especially the overlooked, marginal ones. Besides, what better than the tropes of superstition to fit the blind beliefs that surround the technologies of AI and machine learning?

More Info about the project on Medium. 
Photos available here.

Technology

The oracle AI software is based on Char-RNN, a class of neural network especially effective in generating original text matching a particular style, from a corpus of text that the network was trained with. In our case, the training data came from an Italian horoscope site, whose 15 years archive of weekly predictions are available online.

The Char-RNN algorithm can be configured to start from a specific seed word, and this was how the oracle could give prediction based on the user-specified subject. The AI software with the text generation AI was then placed in a web server, listening for users to send the oracle the initial word for the prediction via SMS or through a form in a web-page.

The result of the prediction is then visualised on a webpage, which is running on a Raspberry PI and displayed to the person that requested the prediction.

List of technologies:

  • Char-RNN, Tensorflow/Python
  • NodeJs Web Server
  • Raspberry-Pi
  • HTML/CSS/javascript

Credits

The Nuovo Oracolo Cittadino is a collaboration between Leonardo Amico (interaction designer, technologist) and Federico Floriani (product designer, photographer) (AM-FL).

The glass pieces were produced by AAMURANO (Angeli Antichi Glass Factory). Thanks also to Francesca Biagiotti for the graphics and to General Life for the stickers on the object. All Photos by Federico Floriani.

The Nuovo Oracolo Cittadino was on display at Edicola Radetzki, via Gorizia, Milano — from 1/3/2019 to 31/3/2019.

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