Sep 10, 2015 | By Kira

When photography was first introduced, it was a specialized and complicated practice, requiring heavy equipment, a steady hand, and loads of patients. Today, with digital cameras and now smartphones, people point, click and upload without even thinking, leading to an endless stream of photos that are poorly framed, over-exposed, and worse of all: hopelessly generic. To prevent any more of these yawn-worthy shots, a new camera device uses invisible metadata to determine if too many photos have been taken in a particular spot, and if so, physically restricts the user from taking anymore.

Known as the Camera Restricta, a play on the 17th century’s camera obscura, the speculative design is not only meant to comment on censorship in the digital age, but also to “question our photographic practice.”

According to designer and artist Philipp Schmitt, the camera prototype was assembled with a 3D printed body, which houses electronics to control the shutter, and a smartphone that enables, GPS and data connectivity, generates the audio effects, and doubles as the camera screen. The phone runs an open-source web app that scans Flickr and Panaramio, two popular photo sharing websites, in order to detect geotagged photos taken within a 35-meter radius. The app then translates the number of found photos, from dozens to thousands, into real-time sound, with each ‘click’ representing another tourist snap. “If the number is above a certain threshold, a photo cell mounted in front of the screen picks up a signal and transmits it to the microcontroller which then retracts the shutter.”

While it is unclear just how many photos qualifies as ‘too many,’ users will immediately be notified: the viewfinder becomes covered by a large red ‘X’ while the shutter button is physically revoked, preventing any further photos. “Camera Restricta could be a controversial tech product, promising unique pictures by preventing the user from contributing to the overflow of generic digital imagery,” writes the artist. “It is a speculation on a possible new generation of cameras where the once obedient tool becomes an authority.”

While the project is still speculative and intended to create dialogue about censorship that takes place before an action rather than after, he muses that it could have practical applications, particularly in Europe, where Parliament recently considered (yet ultimately voted against) a proposal that threatened to restrict photography of copyrighted buildings and art in public places. “The camera could be funded or subsidized by public and private sector institutions with an interest in regulating photography in certain places. Taking that idea even further, he says that the physical camera body isn’t even required: the same functionality could be included in a software update on just about any smartphone.

The camera has another benefit: not only can it tell you where there is an overabundance of photos taken, it can also tell you where no photos have been taken before, leading to truly unique photo opportunities. By the same token, it can help you discover new trending areas such as lesser-known tourist sites, cafes, nightclubs, or even gyms.

Of course, just because ten billion Eiffel Tower selfies already exist, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have my own, and the uniqueness of a photo cannot be judged just by how many other people have taken photos nearby. After all, photo sharing today isn’t necessarily about having the most unique or well-executed shot, it’s more about showing off our experiences and connecting with a like-minded community (there’s a reason why “the 12 Most Cliché Photos on Instagram” exist, right?). Still, it would be an interesting experiment to see how users would react to the Camera Restricta, and what kinds of unexpected, unique, and refreshing photos would come out of it.




Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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