A couple of weeks ago I created a system called Zoltara. Zoltara is a little fortune telling machine that predicts the outcome of American NFL football games.
I named the system Zoltara in part because I created an earlier system called Zoltar. Zoltar gives poker advice and was named after the Zoltar fortune teller machine that you can see at amusement arcades (and in the old movie “Big” starring Tom Hanks). Zoltara is supposed to be Zoltar’s sister.
Zoltara has three main components. You ask Zoltara a question about a football game and the system uses Microsoft Speech Recognition technology running on a laptop to understand the question. Next the system uses custom C# machine learning code (it can run either on the laptop or on the Zoltara box) to determine the answer to your question. The answer information is sent (via USB serial port) from laptop to the Zoltara avatar which is running the .NET Gadgeteer device with the .NET Micro Framework. Zoltara indicates the answer using a flashing crystal ball, and the answer is also given in audible form using Microsoft Speech Synthesis technology running on the laptop.
You can see a 30-second video of Zoltara at:
Why did I create Zoltara? One of the coolest things about working at Microsoft is that my management is incredibly supportive about learning new things. I made Zoltara as part of an internal event where engineers get to take one week to do “something interesting”. Zoltara allowed me to investigate technologies that will help me on other projects.