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Don’t stand still: Indian builds DIY Polaroid camera that instantly ‘prints’ GIFs

Fancy holding moving pictures in your palm?

tech Updated: Sep 01, 2017 17:01 IST
Neha Gupta
Neha Gupta
Hindustan Times
Polaroid,InstaGif NextStep,GIF camera
Fancy holding moving pictures in your palm?(Abhishek Singh’s YouTube channel)

Who doesn’t like the old-world charm a Polaroid camera brings? Now, an Indian-origin developer has created ‘InstaGif NextStep’, a technology that ‘prints’ GIFs onto palm-sized cartridges. Yes, physical copies of moving pictures.

Similar in function to a Polaroid camera, one only need press a button and out pops a ‘picture’.

Inspired by the Polaroid OneStep, 28-year-old Abhishek Singh built his model over four weeks, working on: hardware, software, 3D modelling, 3D printing, circuit design, mechanical/electrical engineering, design and fabrication - for it to work seamlessly.

Each shot captures a three-second video that is ejected automatically once the ‘photo’ is ready. To reload the cartridge, simply press a button and slide it back in. You will, of course, lose the previously captured GIF on the cartridge but it can be easily connected to a computer and downloaded. To make the experience authentic, Singh made sure the GIFs fade in to reveal the three-second clip, like in an actual Polaroid.

The project was hand-built using Raspberry Pi single-board computers, battery packs, and 3D-printed materials. Sourcing parts was one of the most challenging aspects of the build, the developer says. “It’s a chicken and egg situation in which the parts are defining the design and dimensions and at the same time the design is attempting to define the parts you should look for,” he told Hindustan Times in an email interview.

Raised in New Delhi, Singh is a business undergraduate and has completed a master’s program (ITP) from New York University. Interested in technology, he started experimenting in 2014.

Singh has detailed a step-by-step process of how he created the Instagif, in an Imgur post, documenting the entire DIY build.

Hardly any new invention comes without failed expectations. There were several demands online expressing disappointment that the camera didn’t print a flipbook. Some appealed to Singh to patent the idea and sell it, while quite a few weren’t impressed with the waste of resources in using the heavy cartridge.

Singh says replacing the bulky cartridge with lenticular pictures is an interesting idea but miniaturising a lenticular printer to the form factor he wants would be difficult. He also has no concrete plans of patenting the idea and selling it. “Mass production was never the intention. This was a prototype to communicate a concept,” he says.

Is the InstaGif NextStep practical? Of course not. Is it fun? Yes! Fancy building one for yourself? Here’s a time-lapse of the assembly process, which Singh says will enable you to create a similar camera in only 45 minutes.

First Published: Sep 01, 2017 15:31 IST