Voodoo Buddy, a networked wireless voodoo doll

As a critique of our culture of constant, instant contact and ubiquitous spam, we updated the voodoo doll for contemporary forms of communication. A human presence can be contained in an image, or in a three-dimensional representation: a statue or doll. These forms abstract presence, condense it, symbolize it. The power of representation is in this concentrated “second” presence, extracted and separated from the original. In Voodoo Buddy, presence is (mis)placed into a miniature physical form, a doll. This usually friendly, cuddly plaything becomes an agent of misery and annoyance. Users enter the email address and phone number of their victim into the web interface. When the Voodoo Buddy is pricked with a pin, and the output is annoying spam, disturbing email images, and disquieting text messages and phone calls channeled to the victim. Users beware! Your Voodoo Buddy could turn on you– prick too often and the doll might take your picture and send it to your victim, revealing your identity. The handmade doll integrates an Arduino microcontroller, a BlueSmirf BlueTooth unit, and a wireless camera with php and asterisk phone server coding.

A schematic shows the inner workings of Voodoo Buddy. The doll contains a microcontroller, conductive padding in several areas, and a tiny surveillence camera. The doll essentially acts as a switch. When users hold the doll in one hand, they make contact with a metal pad at the back of its head. When the user pricks the doll with a pin held in the other hand, they close the switch and complete a circuit– a very small, imperceptible current (or “curse”) runs through the user’s body. The microcontroller inside the doll registers this current, and wirelessly sends signals to the Voodoo application running on a nearby computer. Feedback (which is randomized) is then sent to the victim– it may be an emailed image or message, a text message, or a phone call (mediated by the Asterisk server) that plays a disturbing recording. Excessive pricking of Voodoo Buddy increases the chances that the camera in the doll’s eye will be triggered, taking a photograph of the user and sending it on to the victim. In this way, the doll takes revenge.

Click to see Voodoo Buddy in action. Video courtesy of Gizmodo.


All content © Copyright 2017 by Zannah Marsh.
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