OTTO – Animated GIF Camera
- Client: Next Thing Co.
- Role: Design Director, industrial design, 3D modelling, engineering, manufacturing
At the beginning of 2014 I started Next Thing Co. with my two friends, Dave and Gus. Our goal was to create computer-powered tools that would invite people of all backgrounds to experiment with the process of achieving a desired result, from changing the outputs, inputs, and processes themselves. Our first product was OTTO, an open-source linux computer in the form of a retro film camera. OTTO has software-defined “modes” which enable it to create images in different ways based on a variety of hardware inputs and software variables. It’s primary mode at launch was “GIF” mode which would spit out animated GIFs at the turn of it’s crank.
One of the details the three of us loved about classic film cameras was the film wind crank used to roll the film back into it’s protective container. There’s something uniquely delightful about flipping out the tiny crank arm (like removing that first slice from a cake) and using the whole weight of your arm to rotate this tiny mass around it’s little axis. With OTTO, the outputs of this physical experience are open to your imagination. In GIF mode the clockwise turns of the crank record new frames for the GIF and a counterclockwise full-turn saves the GIF. In another mode the crank could alter the output (changing the saturation for example) based purely on the speed at which you advanced the crank.
Over the course of creating OTTO we created many, many prototypes. For a couple months we produced about one a week, often featuring a completely changed mechanical assembly. The image above is just a handful of these prototypes.
The OTTO assembly includes several machined aluminum parts. For the initial production units we manufactured these parts in our very own workshop in West Oakland. We purchased a used HAAS Mini Mill and in two weeks I taught myself how to use it (from zero prior experience) and started producing the parts I had modeled.
OTTO’s front and rear is made of injection-molded plastic. This was my very first time designing a part for injection molding. I was delighted that the first shots came out essentially perfect! Only a few minor, metal-safe adjustments were needed.