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Instaprint: The Polaroid of Today?

With all our advancements in the past decades, we are firmly set in the digital age, forcing most analogue products to become obsolete. The iconic brick-and-briefcase cell phone (see intomobile’s great infographic: The Evolution of the Mobile Phone) has made way for the sleek smartphone/blackberry/touchscreen phone. Computers that used to fill rooms upon rooms are now long gone as small personal laptops and desktops set up camp on our bodies and tables. Large, bulky analogue televisions slowly disappeared as 70” digital, high-definition TVs moved in. Photo albums moved to the online cloud and now sit largely alone on shelves. Film cameras were replaced by small consumer digital ones.

Sadly, few of my generation really remember the age of instant prints from Polaroid cameras and Kodak Instamatics. As a photo-and-camera obsessed child in the 90s and early 2000s, a simple 35mm film point-and-shoot camera was attached to my hand for several years - with which I had to wait a week for the prints to come back from the Costco photo lab. I still remember the anguish from the day my camera fell from my hands and broke; its last memory of my boyfriend-at-the-time dressed as Hagrid before we all went trick-or-treating. However, as deep as my grief had been, that time was the dawn of the affordable consumer digital camera. And once I went digital, I was hooked.

The pros of digital cameras are enumerable, to say the least, but something about having a printed photo on-the-spot has a certain tangible appeal that will never be replaced by a screen.

some textReleased in late 2010, the free Instagram app for Apple products brought back nostalgia for the iconic square photo shape. Its popularity soared, reaching one million registered users two months after its release, and over ten million by September 2011. Instagram also made it easy to share these shapshots like telegrams though the Internet.

However, those photos were mainly stored on phones and online, with only a few being printed - if any.

Until now: Brooklyn-based design company BREAKFAST hopes to change that with the Instaprint.

Instaprint is a "mobile photo-booth that turns Instagrams back into the Polaroid-like prints that inspired the app in the first place." It is marketed as a social product that would transform parties and events by turning everyone into a photographer, essentially. By setting Instaprint to look out for specific hashtags and/or locations, it will automatically print an appropriately-tagged photo out on inkless paper.

You'll also be able to manage all the photos that your Instaprint detected and printed with, which houses your event galleries. It'll showcase all the Instagrams printed, and is easily shared with others.


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It's kind of cool.

The printer has only been available as a rental for functions, but BREAKFAST (creators of The Conan Blimp, The Grind Gallery and The Verbalizer for Google) has recently put Instaprint onto the pre-order market via Kickstarter for support and backing. BREAKFAST hopes to be shipping these babies off by September 2012, if everything goes smoothly.

There are different pledge amounts ranging from $1 to $5,000 or more. To actually get a printer though, you have to pledge $399 for the HOME KIT, which includes 1 Instaprint with controller, 1 coiled power cable, 1 power supply and 20 sheet of inkless photo paper. If you can't quite make that, the smaller pledges are all under $100 and you'd receive a unique piece of art incorporating your and your friends' Instagram photos.

Despite the novelty of having an instant printer at a party, I'm not sure whether the Instaprint will win its way into the hearts of consumers. Not only is the initial price high, but the maintenance and refill prices (estimated at $10-$12 for ~30 sheets) could become costly as well.

With the Instaprint still in the pre-production stage, the final specs on how it will run and work are unknown, which could add hesitation to any possible buyers. The company is still assessing different printer engine options, which would affect the type and price of paper it will use as well as its paper capacity. Thus far, the interest in the printer has been good, with nearly 500 backers on Kickstarter but less than half actually pledged for a printer package.

The photo galleries are a great idea though. Oftentimes, photos from an event are scattered around the Internet on various social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, Flickr. This can potentially wrangle all of them together, as long as everyone has the Instagram app and remember to tag the correct location or add the right hashtag. That future could be close though, as the Instagram app prototype for Android made its first appearance at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference 2012.

What do you think? Is the Instaprint paired with the Instagram app the new Polaroid of today?


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