When we last wrote about Socialmatic, the concept for a web-enabled instant camera that uploads your snaps to Instagram and prints them out using an on-board printer, it was but a twinkle in the eye of Italian inventor Antonio De Rosa. The patently ridiculous industrial design, which is based on Instagram’s iOS icon, seemed as technically impossible as it was functionally unnecessary. And it seemed even less likely to materialize after De Rosa’s Indiegogo campaign failed to raise funds necessary to produce the camera, last year.
Yet it seems that Socialmatic hasn’t been relegated to the back pages of a portfolio just yet. This week, De Rosa announced a partnership with one C&A Licensing LLC, a company that licenses the Polaroid brand. According to a statement, C&A will help De Rosa bring the Socialmatic to market by early 2014. “It’s been a long and difficult negotiation,” De Rosa said, adding, “this mix of hardware and software, together with our brand new photo social network will fill the gap between virtuality and reality.”
If you missed the first round of press coverage, Socialmatic is a 16GB camera with a 4-inch-wide screen. It lets you apply retro-ish filters to your photos before uploading them to Facebook, Instagram, or a yet-to-be-designed Socialmatic app. A Zink (zero ink) printer, a bit like Polaroid’s own, lets you print out sticky-backed images on demand.
Despite being deeply embedded in Instagram culture, Socialmatic has no affiliation with the social photo app. Which is incredibly strange—the face of the device is plastered with Instagram’s SLR camera logo, and every picture it prints out is accompanied by a QR code link to your Instagram account. Socialmatic is piggybacking on the wild popularity of the Instagram brand, and unless it comes up against any legal problems, could fool a whole lot of people. Doubly so when you add a Polaroid endorsement into the mix—the value of those two brand associations alone are transforming Socialmatic into a legitimate product.
De Rosa was hesitant to comment on what’s changed since he struck his deal with C&A. When asked if the deal had affected the design, he answered a cryptic, “Could be. It depends on some technical situations.” One of those technical situations could be the Zero Ink printing technology, which would drive the cost up. But according to De Rosa, the release date is still too far out to make a guess on Socialmatic’s price tag. “It will be for everyone,” he assured me (a previous estimate was $350).
It’s a deeply zany idea—after all, isn’t this thing doing what your iPhone could do, minus the printing?—but the response has been massively positive online. For Polaroid enthusiasts, it hints at nostalgia while maintaining a foothold in the digital world. At the same time, Instagram users seem to love the idea as a way to bolster their street cred as legit artists. For tech geeks, the thing has the ironic allure of an instant collectible, with a name that already sounds dated. In an odd way, it might be the perfect addition to the snapshot-crazed market.
[H/t Design Taxi]