VIENNA, Austria -- What do you get when you mix a forward-thinking Austrian design studio, a cutting-edge artist and a high-tech lighting company with a classic coin-op concept? You get the Thermobooth, a top-to-bottom rethinking of the classic photobooth.
The brainchild of Talia Radford and her Viennese-based taliaYstudio (sic), the new photobooth represents a concept collaboration by taliaYstudio and artist Jonas Bohatsch with innovative lighting by multinational company Osram Opto Semiconductors GmbH (Regensburg, Germany).
Outwardly the concept is simple. Radford reimagined the photobooth concept, eliminating the usual enclosure and replacing it with a display similar to a stage, which Bohatsch designed. This display, in front of which the photobooth patrons pose, is formed of an array of mirrored surfaces incorporating high-tech OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diodes). This array serves both as a posing aid and as a photoflash delivering soft illumination.
OLEDs can be fabricated as very thin, lightweight illuminating panels delivering non-glare lighting with low power consumption; these panels can be formed into nearly any shape across a wide range of sizes. And, ideally for photobooth use, an OLED panel may be designed to alternate between transparency and reflectivity. In Bohatsch's OLED display, the lighting thus doubles as part of the design element. The mirrors, an array of discs supported on slender pedestals, turn from mirrors to flashlamps and back to mirrors in an instant.
The photobooth's design also breaks new ground in shutter release design. It has neither a pushbutton nor a touchscreen for tripping the camera and flash. Instead there are two metal plates set into the floor of the booth. Customers remove their shoes and stand on these plates. Once in position, the camera is activated when the patrons close a circuit by touching each other.
This switching is accomplished by a low-cost off-the-shelf MaKey MaKey system from JoyLabz. Designed by MIT student Jay Silver, MaKey MaKey has gained fame and built a devoted hobbyist following by turning any conductive material into a switch. With the Thermobooth, the subjects are the switch contacts, closed by a simple touch.
The touch that activates the Thermobooth's camera can be anything from a kiss or caress to a handshake or a high-five. However they choose to touch one another, the camera captures the moment and delivers the image as "a glorious lo-fi instant" picture turned out by an onboard thermal printer.
"Yes, it takes a picture when you touch each other!" said a spokesperson for the taliaYstudio. "We are opening a stage for playfulness and the unexpected."
Although the Thermobooth is not currently available for commercial use, it did garner rave reviews at Vienna Design Week 2013 (Sept. 26-Oct.5) by demonstrating a unique redesign of a familiar product. Whether the system has potential on the market as a coin-op and/or event-imaging system remains to be seen. In any event, the Thermobooth opens a window into the possibilities afforded by advanced technology, collaboration and reimagining the ordinary.
Click here to see a video of the Thermobooth in action.