Combining the two loves of geeks everywhere — eccentric fashion and elaborate and ultimately pointless projects — Ryan Anderson built a robotic sorting hat that has both captivated his children and the many grown-up children talking about it online.
Anderson, an IBM engineer by trade, created the device at a hackathon back in October, but it’s making the rounds online again this week. He built it using a few of IBM Watson’s cognitive-computing programs, a Raspberry PI, Arduino Yun (microcontroller board), and several motors from DVD players. He also had some help from his daughter, Lucy, who helped establish 150 “ground truths,” or key terms the hat would recognize as central to any given Hogwarts house. (Wit for Ravenclaw, bravery for Gryffindor, jerk for Slytherin, and so forth). If you’re feeling particularly tech-savvy, you can find instructions to code your own here.
To use the hat, you place it on your head (though it’ll still work if you’re not wearing it), and tell it a few things about yourself. The hat will then process the information and shout out your newly declared house. (Of course, if you don’t have a snazzy robot to tell you, just do what the rest of us do. Ask your friends and act totally offended when they tell you you’re a Hufflepuff.)
The hat also works using information from a person’s Wikipedia page, placing Stephen Hawking and Hillary Clinton into Ravenclaw, while planting Donald Trump in Gryffindor (slightly concerned about that last one). But hey, the hat also uses deep learning, meaning it actually learns from its mistakes. Better luck next time, hat!