The KineCAM produces physical animated photographs using a Raspberry Pi and a thermal printer

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A team of researchers from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed an instant camera with a difference: it prints animated photographs, using a twist on a technique of vintage barrier grid animation to create physical “kinegrams”.

“Kinegram is a classic animation technique that involves dragging a striped overlay over an interlaced frame to create the effect of frame-by-frame movement,” the team explains of their work history. “While there are known tools to generate kinegrams from pre-existing video and images, there is no system to capture and fabricate kinegrams in situ. To fill this gap, we have created KineCAM, a device open source photo snapshot that captures and prints animated photographs in the form of kinegrams.”

The KineCAM prints instant photos with a twist: they are animated rather than static. (📹: Sethapakdi et al)

The Kinegram itself consists of a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ single board computer connected to a low-cost thermal printer, originally designed to print receipts on continuous roll paper, and a camera module Arducam 5MP with a battery, physical shutter button, LED indicator and simple case – costing, all inclusive, less than $100.

“Rather than capturing static images,” the team explains, “KineCAM is able to capture dynamic movement, which expands the artistic potential of instant photography. Unlike the ‘black box’ of a Polaroid camera, KineCAM also provides access to internal hardware and software systems, which allow users to customize their cameras and produce a wider range of visual outputs.

The KineCAM system works by capturing a one-second video clip, rather than a single frame. Once captured, the video is processed on the Raspberry Pi into individual frames, which are then interlaced into a single frame combining strips of multiple frames. When the image is printed on the camera’s internal thermal printer, it looks like glitch art – but when an overlay is placed on top, printed on transparent paper using a standard inkjet printer, all lines in a single frame are masked. Move the overlay up and down and the animation “plays”.

“We used KineCAM to create a series of portraits that capture an afternoon social gathering,” the team explains. “Subjects were invited to have their picture taken while we observed how they interacted with the camera. Our experiences of this activity allowed us to see how KineCAM creates opportunities for low-stakes experimental social photography. KineCAM is an unconventional camera that piques curiosity and encourages experimentation.”

“Although it looks like an unassuming instant camera on the surface,” the team continues, “KineCAM produces photos that are not typical of instant cameras. encouraged to experiment with outings. In our photo sessions, subjects tested the expressiveness of KineCAM by performing actions ranging from subtle hand gestures to large full-body movements.”

An article detailing the KineCAM project has been published in the Proceedings of SIGGRAPH ’22 with a PDF copy available in open access on the CSAIL websitewith more information available on the project site and in a recording of the project’s SIGGRAPH conference. Design files and source code, on the other hand, have been published on GitHub under an unspecified open source license.

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