The Acorn Wand, key to a magical puzzle hunt

Puzzle hunts are a popular pastime at Microsoft. For the Microsoft Intern Puzzleday 2007, the puzzle design team decided upon a Harry Potter theme. Competitors ("students") formed teams ("study groups") as they attended classes at the Hogwarts campus at Microsoft. Of course, since this is Harry Potter, you need a magic wand, so the puzzle design team made a bunch of functional magic wands.

Some members of the puzzle design team had attended Hogwarts and the Draconian Prophecy and came back raving about these amazing magic wands. The wand designer (who goes by the name Acorn) advised the puzzle design team on how to build their own wands, and they ordered custom circuit boards, soldered the components, assembled the plastic enclosures, and programmed the wands to recognize the puzzle spells.

Solving each puzzle revealed a spell in the form of a series of wand motions. The wand itself contained an accelererometer and supporting firmware to recognize the motions and determine which (if any) spell was cast. After performing a spell, you shook the wand back and forth, and the persistence of vision effect permitted the wand to display a short message. (As an added bonus, the puzzle design team added a lumos spell which lit the tip of the wand for 30 seconds.)

Pretty neat if you ask me.

Comments (8)
  1. Drak says:

    Wow, that’s some cool wand!

  2. Name reuired says:

    Arthur C Clarke, I think, said something about suficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic. Now you know what he meant.

  3. William Reading says:

    I was one of the interns that got to participate in said puzzle game.

    The wands were absolutely amazing, and one of my friends still casts lumos to use his as a flashlight.

  4. Thom says:

    That is so cool!  If only they had patented, developed, mass produced, and released it around the time of the last Harry Potter blockbuster they’d be retired and relaxing on a beach now.

  5. Jolyon Smith says:

    A wand that look’s like pooh isn’t likely to be a very big sales success.  But then again I might have said the same thing about turgid, derivative childrens literature, and look at Harry Potter.


    Anyway, everyone knows that REAL magic doesn’t require a wand.  Wands  are for illusionists who need a device with which to distract their audience.  Not everyone can bag a pretty girl in a skimpy, glittery dress, so somethings a pointy stick just has to do.

  6. Acorn Pooley says:

    Glad you liked the wand!  Just so you know, complete instructions for building your own wand can be found on the website

    The website also says I may offer kits, which I am still considering, but I haven’t gotten around to doing it yet (feel free to sign up, but don’t hold your breath :) ).


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