Globetrotting Polaroid camera magically fills Grandma’s photo frame

Max Van Leeuwen’s grandpa gifted him his old Polaroid Land Camera and, being the thoughtful maker that he is, Max turned used it to create a gift for his grandma.

Using a few Raspberry Pis and some Python code, Max’s revamped camera keeps his grandma posted on where he is in the world, through the lens of her husband’s old camera.

Say hi to Max on YouTube. He does incredible VFX work for actual cinema-released movies

How does it work?

Both the camera and the frame use Raspberry Pi, so Max gets double points from us. A Raspberry Pi Camera Module hides behind the lens of the old Polaroid, capturing Max’s travels. A Raspberry Pi board sits inside the body of the camera, processing the images and sending them to the frame via Wi-Fi.

Another Raspberry Pi inside the frame in Max’s grandma’s home sends the photos to the e-paper display. It keeps them there until it receives word from the Raspberry Pi inside the camera that Max has taken a new photo.

The Raspberry Pi inside the Polaroid deletes each image file as soon as it sends it to the frame. There is no other copy of the file: you need to keep checking the frame for updates if you want to catch every photo, because once it’s gone, it’s gone, and there’s no record. Each new photo shown in the frame wipes over the last one.

Shake it like a Polaroid picture

The 5.6″ display inside the photo frame is e-paper, so it doesn’t require much power. It also emits no light, so its output looks a lot like real Polaroid photos. We also like the added touch that it takes a little while to pull through a new photo, just like when you used to have to shake a Polaroid. Makes us feel like we’re right back at the birth of modern photography in a dark room, just without the mess, and the weird red lightbulbs.

In action

Portable gift

Max built the frame especially for his grandma, and it resides on her bookcase, gently flipping through a visual record of his adventures. If grandma moves house, or if someone else wants to take over Max Watch for a while, the frame can be placed on any bookshelf anywhere in the world. As long as it’s connected to Wi-Fi, it will show Max’s latest photo.

I love this idea for the people in our lives who don’t want to be beholden to message groups in apps to keep up with what everyone is doing. It reminds me of the lovely Yayagram project we shared a while back. Yayagram sends voice messages in the form of printed telegrams, so people who are hard of hearing can receive messages from loved ones, even if they’re not up on text messaging.

yaya using yayagram
Yayagram in action with the maker, Manu, and his Yaya

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