Bringing Tarot Reading to the Third Dimension — Developing ‘3rd Eye’ for the Looking Glass

Draft · 5 min read


Last year, a friend of mine showed me something pretty fascinating on the internet — Tarot readers on YouTube. Based on your astrological sun, moon, rising, or even Venus sign, readers on YouTube are divining away your life problems.

The whole situation begs the imagination to take a wild ride — a possible future in which your fortunes are told online. An AI reading your destiny based on your birth date, like the Oracle in the Matrix speaking to your virtually rendered body? I’m into it.

Divinely Feminine on YouTube

The way YouTube readers play the cards’ narratives off of each other is reminiscent of Choose Your Own Adventure books. Readers pull cards that continue to shift the context of the underlying problem, and therefore solution of the audience’s plight. The tarot reader pulls the 7 of Swords and now your reading is about who is lying to you this month. Then they pull the 2 of Swords and now it seems like it’s you that’s lying to someone else — in fact, you’re actually lying to yourself about something. After each card is pulled, the reader reveals more and more of the story of the present situation — lifting the tarot reading into a cinematic crescendo of understanding and clarity. And right before signing off, they impart with you some holy advice on how to tackle your problems.

Zoltar Fortune Telling Machine

To me — HoloPlayer One had the potential to become an extremely modern and updated version of the old fortune teller boxes in penny arcades I became so familiar with as a kid. So yeah, I became extremely inspired to bridge the narrative experience I encountered through YouTube Tarot Readings to my visions of an Oracle-like future.

With readings, there’s an expectation that something magical is happening in the background, an illusion of fantasy, even if you as the viewer can’t see it in a tangible way. I wanted the user’s card pulling to be magical in a visceral way, I wanted them to be immersed in the narrative of their reading, and to walk away from an experience that was unique to them.

Prototyping Third Eye

To start with, I focused on creating the individual interactive tarot cards for the application. A tarot card is like a page out of a picture book, with only its name (if it’s a major arcana) or the number in the suit in belongs to. For the first prototype, I wanted to focus on a linear tarot reading. This meant that instead of the user being able to draw from a large pool of cards, the first working prototype of Third Eye would only draw the three of swords, the tower, and the star — a way to show Proof of Concept before having to develop out the whole deck.

Doodle Studio 95! was released around the same time I started prototyping Third Eye, and I found that the interface created from drawing in the plug-in immediately made the project feel more accessible and fun. Upon using Doodle Studio to create the three cards, I quickly then decided to limit my use of 3D assets and instead try to integrate as much 2D animation as possible — developing an entirely new (and somewhat unusual) aesthetic for a three dimensional display. Turns out, it’s working!

Once the artistic decisions were cemented, I began to build out my vision of the virtual psychic and her room. I first held tight to the idea of making the cursor’s rotation equal to your head’s rotation — so where you pointed your finger corresponded to where you looked while you sat at the table with the psychic. After a few rounds of playtests, it became clear that what people really wanted to do was pick up and play with the cards in the scene. So — I ditched the FPS style movement and threw in a Leap Motion controller for more direct interaction with the scene.

I wanted the atmosphere of the Tarot shop to be as true to life as possible so naturally, I went on a field study trip to a psychic shop. This particular psychic had plants and crystals lining the walls of her small shop, and a large window that looked out into the main street. Newspaper clippings of her credibility hung on her entryway, alongside the cost for her card readings, past life regressions, and Egyptian rune divining. I won’t dive into the details of my reading (because that’s private!) but I will say I was mostly struck by the sparkly gleam in her eye and her unwaveringly direct eye contact throughout the entirety of our appointment.


The reading begins after the user provides input when they are ready with “their question in mind”. They are then dealt three cards for their past, present, and future. In it’s first prototype form, Third Eye has simple a linear structure with set cards. In the future, I plan to implement all of the cards in the Rider-Waite traditional deck as randomly generated to more closely emulate the experience of Tarot card pulling. Thanks to the synergy created from the sound and animation style, it’s definitely a mesh of mystery and fun.

A quick video of the latest gameplay

Questions? Dying to share your glorious holographic creations? Head on over to the forum!

If you have any other questions or feedback, email To the future!