Retro LEGO Projector Can ACTUALLY Project Images Onto Any Wall

Think of it as a ViewMaster, but instead of a small viewfinder that lets you see images up close, the LEGO Magic Lantern can cast blurry yet discernible images onto your wall, making it an incredibly engaging and entertaining build for you and your curious child.

In the time before TV, before movies, and even before bright stage lights, a Dutch scientist developed a machine that could make pictures move right in front of you. People were amazed by it, and they called it the Magic Lantern. Jump ahead 400 years and we’ve got the LEGO version! However, the LEGO Magic Lantern by Norders doesn’t use candles or gas or quicklime as its light source – it uses something much more modern that everyone has in their pocket: the flashlight from your phone!

Designer: Norders

Inspired by the original Lanterna Magica from the 17th century (around the time when the greatest minds were devoting their time towards exploring optics and lenses), Norders’ LEGO creation is a tiny tabletop device with steampunk-retro-esque details. Styled like a lantern, the contraption has a lens on the front that shoots images out onto any wall, using the light from your smartphone. Given its fixed focal length, the projector does need to be adjusted to ensure the image on the wall isn’t blurry or washed out. At the right distance, you’re left with a clear, bright image with a little vignetting around the sides, giving it an incredibly vintage appeal. Imagine how advanced this must have been during the 17th century!

The way the projector works is by putting a translucent slide into its mounting slot, causing light passing through the projector to cast the image on a wall. The slides are removable and replaceable, letting you play out a literal slide show by changing the individual images every few seconds! In fact, the 17th-century magic lantern is where we get the word ‘slide show’ from!

By LEGO-build standards, Norders’ Magic Lantern takes a few unconventional liberties. It uses parts that aren’t found in the LEGO catalog, like lenses, mirrors, and printed images. The lenses play a rather integral role in shaping the beam of light, which travels upwards from your smartphone to a 45° mirror, which then channels it forward towards the front of the projector. The printed image is mounted on a transparent LEGO brick, and light passing through it hits a final lens before going through a shadow mask to help create that final circular image. In LEGO parlance, these techniques are ‘illegal’ because of the use of non-LEGO components. However, we can chalk it down to ‘creative liberty’.

Keeping the Magic Lantern 150cm (59 inches) far from the wall results in an image 60cm (23.5 inches) in diameter

The Magic Lantern’s schematic features an adjustable mirror because the flashlight isn’t located at exactly the same place for every smartphone

The Magic Lantern is made from 513 LEGO bricks, making it much easier than some other detailed LEGO construction kits. Each additional slide requires 7 bricks, allowing you to expand on your slide collection to display through the lantern (you’ll still have to print your images on transparent sheets). Norder’s creation is a part of the LEGO Ideas forum, where independent creators can submit their ideas for LEGO builds and have the global LEGO community vote to select their favorite. As of writing this, the LEGO Magic Lantern has a staggering 8,355 votes, putting it just inches behind the 10,000-vote finish line. You can help by voting for it on the LEGO Ideas forum and with luck, help turn it into a buyable set!