For decades now, the photo booth has been a potent dating wunderkabinet: both the perfect place to steal a kiss, and the best way to capture it. The Thermobooth is a new spin on the photo booth concept that takes it to the next level, only firing off the camera when two people press their lips together or put their arms around one another. If they don’t touch, it never takes a photo.
Created by Viennese designer Talia Radford, the Thermobooth was inspired by a desire to create a playful environment that explored more emotional ways of interacting with electronics.
“We love the immediacy of analogue photography, but we also feel that the action of capturing a moment on camera should be more immediate than just pushing a button,” Radford tells Co.Design. The Thermobooth transforms the actual moment of intimacy into a literal physical shutter button: as two people touch, they create a circuit, which tells the Thermobooth to take a picture.
Not so surprisingly, kissing is the most popular thing to do in the Thermobooth. Group shots are also popular, where users form chains of up to five people and close the circuit by holding hands.
To make the Thermobooth a reality, Radford collaborated with media artist Jonas Bohatsch, who has experimented with thermal printing technology. The duo created a beta version of the Thermobooth, then pitched it to light bulb maker OSRAM as a way to show off show off their new OLED flashes. OSRAM loved the idea, and Radford and Bohatsch were soon constructing the finished model out of a camera, a thermal printer, an Arduino, some OLED lights and more, all housed in an old Ikea bureau.
Interestingly, it’s not the Thermobooth’s camera that can detect touch. Instead, touch is determined by a Makey Makey carpet beneath them. “It’s really more of a smart carpet than anything else,” Radford says.
Because of how the Makey Makey operates, you need to take off your shoes for the Thermobooth to register the touch, leading to some amusing photos. “Once, we had a sweet elderly lady who didn’t want to take her shoes off, but still wanted to try the Thermobooth,” recalls Radford. “So she asked two handsome young men to take a photo with her with one shoe off each. It was very endearing.”
However they choose to do it, once two people form a circuit, the Thermobooth triggers the OLED flash and snaps their photograph, which is then printed out using a thermal printer. “There were long debates if we would upgrade the printer, but thermal printing is quick and dirty in its look, yet still retains some of the nostalgia of instant analog photography,” says Radford. In the end, they went with their gut and decided to embrace the contrast between OSRAM’s high-tech OLED lights and the very low-tech prints.
And with all the kissing that’s going on this time of year–think New Year’s Countdown–the Thermobooth is available for rent.