With cameras getting more and more advanced, we constantly aim to capture more details and higher resolutions. Even instant cameras are getting some new features, such as interchangeable lenses. But a Melbourne-based engineer and visual artist Dan Macnish has turned things the other way around. He has designed an instant camera that lets you shoot and print images – but instead of real-life scenes, you’ll get simple, crude carton doodles.
Dan writes that he wanted to “take the concept of a polaroid one step further” and make the camera not create a faithful photo, but reinterpret it.
Do you remember Google’s Quick, Draw! game? It uses a neural network to try and guess what people are trying to draw in under 20 seconds. This game produced a database of over 50 million identified stick figure drawings, and Dan used them to power his camera. The camera he named Draw This incorporates a neural network for object recognition and Dan mapped the categories available in the Google dataset with the categories recognizable by the image processor. The camera runs on a Raspberry Pi and the doodles are printed with a thermal printer. All this is combined with some electronics and wrapped up in an instant camera we have never seen before.
Unlike Polaroid, this “doodle-camera” doesn’t have a viewfinder. You blindly point the camera at the scene, press the shutter, and wait for your doodle to get printed. As Dan writes, the result is always a surprise:
“You point, and shoot – and out pops a cartoon; the camera’s best interpretation of what it saw. The result is always a surprise. A food selfie of a healthy salad might turn into a enormous hotdog, or a photo with friends might be photobombed by a goat.”
We’ve seen before how to make your own instant camera with a Raspberry Pi and a thermal printer. But Dan’s Draw This camera is definitely one of the most creative instant cameras I’ve seen. If you are into making your own, he has kindly shared a code and instructions for making on GitHub. If I were more tech savvy, I know I’d sure make one.