When the Internet was invented by President Al Gore back in the mists of the late 20th century, it was built upon two indefatigable pillars: hyperbole and animated cat GIFs.
A new Kickstarter launched late last week is designed to help you contribute to one of them. Its name is Otto, and it's an adorable digital camera that lets you easily capture and share animated GIFs, right from the camera.
On the outside, the Otto looks like a Fisher-Price toy. It has a bulbous blue plastic body with black top and bottom caps. On front is a simple 35mm f/2 lens, a bright yellow OTTO logo, and an honest-to-goodness optical viewfinder. On top is a giant red shutter button and a simple pop-up crank.
From what we can gather, you capture images with the Otto like you would with any other camera: Simply frame your shot and press the big red shutter button. If you want to make a GIF, though, all you have to do is turn the pop-up crank. Every revolution captures one frame for your GIF, while turning the crank in the opposite direction saves it and shares it to your phone.
The Otto will only be manufactured if its Kickstarter campaign reaches at least $60,000 in pledges by June 14th. Though there are a number of different reward tiers, you can pre-order an Otto by pledging at least $199. As of press time, the crowdfunding campaign has 160 backers, raising just under $27,600 thus far.
In addition to capturing GIFs, Otto can also be programmed to do all sorts of other things. For example, it comes with a number of built-in modes that will can turn a normal snapshot into a snazzy final image. You can turn your photo into a posterized mesh of polygons, overlay a map of your city on a photo, or even digitally add "deal with it" sunglasses to everyone in the frame.
And those are just some of the possibilities. Otto is built off of the Raspberry Pi, a cheap-yet-powerful computer typically used by home inventors for do-it-yourself projects. With such a flexible platform, Otto will be fully hackable, meaning anybody can add new modes with just a little know-how.
There's even a USB port hidden behind the big, friendly Otto logo on front, allowing you to attach any number of external accessories.
One such accessory is the "FlashyFlash" (also a part of the Kickstarter project), which (confusingly) isn't a flash at all. Instead, it's an Arduino-powered circuit board that lets you augment Otto with all sorts of off-the-shelf hardware modules. These modules can take in different types of information and adjust images accordingly. One example: A microphone module that activates the shutter at the moment you do a high five.
According to the Kickstarter page, Otto is the work of three inventors who have formed NextThing.co: Thomas Deckert, Dave Rauchwek, and Gustavo Huber. The three have developed several prototype GIF-capturing cameras as part of the HAXLR8R program, a venture fund that helps small startup teams with mentorship, seed money, and provides workspace in both San Francisco and Shenzhen, China.