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Literally crank out GIFs with a whimsical, hackable camera

Literally crank out GIFs with a whimsical, hackable camera

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It's not too difficult to make your own animated GIF with the right tools. But like any piece of single-purpose hardware, an entire camera dedicated to the process feels so much more luxurious. Otto, which launched on Kickstarter yesterday, puts a lens and a Raspberry Pi microcomputer into a simple and appealing case that evokes a disposable waterproof camera. But alongside its still shutter button, it has one very unique feature: a tiny crank that you turn to record, keep still to pause, and turn backwards to rewind or stop the recording. The recording is synced to an app on your phone in animated GIF format. The app, in fact, controls almost everything but the act of recording itself. The Otto team touts a variety of filters and overlays, as well as the option to tweak settings for things like time-lapse video — any settings changes will be synced to the Raspberry Pi.

There's a lot that could go wrong with the Otto. The five-megapixel camera looks decent but not great, and despite the variety of photo modes, GIFs are by far the standout feature. Having to turn a crank on such a small device seems like a recipe for an unstable shot, at least until you get used to it. Part of the camera's fun is supposed to be its hardware and software hackability; there's an SDK available, and a Micro USB port is hidden under the yellow logo. But to get a camera as part of the Kickstarter, you'll have to pledge $199, which makes it a fairly expensive toy if you're not planning to do much beyond GIF-making.

That said, Otto is a charming idea, and if it makes its $60,000 goal, its creators estimate backers will see their cameras shipped by December. As with the robotic printer that was funded earlier this month, the market will speak: are people willing to put their money behind a handsome product that fills a very specific and all but newly created niche?