Twitter-triggered photobooth

A guest post today: I’m just off a plane and can barely string a sentence together. Thanks so much to all the progressive maths teachers we met at the Wolfram conference in New York this week; we’re looking forward to finding out what your pupils do with Mathematica from now on!

Over to Adam Kemény, from in Hove, where he spends the day making robotic photobooths.

This summer Photobot.Co Ltd built what we believe to be the world’s first Twitter-triggered photobooth. Its first outing, at London Fashion Week for The Body Shop, allowed the fashion world to create unique portraits of themselves which were then delivered straight to their own mobile devices.

In February we took our talking robotic photobooth, Photobot, to London Fashion Week for The Body Shop to use to entertain the media and VIPs. We saw that almost every photostrip that Photobot printed was quickly snapped with smartphones before being shared to twitter and facebook and that resonated with an idea we’d had for a photobooth that used twitter as a trigger, rather than buttons or coins.

When The Body Shop approached us to create something new and fun for September’s Fashion Week we pitched a ‘Magic Mirror’ photobooth concept that would allow a Fashion Week attendee to quickly share their personal style.

The first Magic Mirror design, in Sketchup

By simply sending a tweet to the booth’s twitter account the Magic Mirror would respond by greeting them via a hidden display before taking their photo. The resulting image would then be tweeted back to them as well as being shared to a curated gallery.

The Magic Mirror, ready for action

Exploring the concept a little further led us to realise that space constraints would mean that in order to capture a full length portrait we’d need to look at a multi-camera setup. We decided to take inspiration from the fragmented portrait concept that Kevin Meredith (aka Lomokev) developed for his work in Brighton Source magazine – and began experimenting with an increasing number of cameras. Raspberry Pi’s, with their camera module, soon emerged as a good candidate for the cameras due to their image quality, ease of networked control and price.

Test rig, firing fifteen cameras

We decided to give the booth a more impactful presence by growing it into a winged dressing mirror with three panels. This angled arrangement would allow the subject to see themselves from several perspectives at once and, as each mirrored panel would contain a five camera array, they’d be photographed by a total of 15 RPi cameras simultaneously. The booth would then composite the 15 photographs into one stylised portrait before tweeting it back to the subject.

Final hardware

As The Body Shop was using the Magic Mirror to promote a new range of makeup called Colour Crush, graphics on the booth asked the question “What is the main #colour that you are wearing today?”. When a Fashion Week attendee replied to this question (via Twitter) the Magic Mirror would be triggered. Our software scanned tweets to the booth for a mention of any of a hundred colours and send a personalised reply tweet based on what colour the attendee was wearing. For example, attendees tweeting that they wore the colour ‘black’ would have their photos taken before receiving a tweet from the booth that said “Pucker up for a Moonlight Kiss mwah! Love, @TheBodyShopUK #ColourCrush” along with their composited portrait.

The final, eye-searing result!

The Magic Mirror was a challenge to build, mainly due to the complications of getting so many tiny cameras to align in a useful way, but our wonderful developer created a GUI interface that allowed far easier configuration of the 15 photos onto the composited final image, saving the day and my sanity. The booth was a hit and we’re always on the look out for other creative uses for the booth so would welcome any contact from potential collaborators or clients.