We have a tradition here of hosting a party during SXSW (booze and tacos, no badge required). Now that we’ve recovered, we wanted to introduce our latest project: The Wobblr.

In the wake of 2012's party, we discovered that the only record of the awesomeness was in our (slightly boozy) memories. Sadly, not a single picture was taken of the epic festivities. Girded by the desire not to repeat past mistakes, we decided to pool our collective talents and construct an Event Data Recorder, aka photo booth.

We know what you’re going to say. Yes, we could have rented one. Yes, many events this year had snazzy models that spit out pictures of you, say, sitting on the Iron Throne (FYI, we will rule Westeros). But, we’re a creative design agency and we figured, “Hey, why not build it ourselves in a week and a half? We can get buttons…LEDs… and while we’re at it, why not build a nice, custom cabinet for it? Get it internet enabled? And just for fun, let’s make it do this”:

Wiggle stereoscopy using two frames of a street in Cork, Ireland in 1927. By Keystone View Company.

Design

So we did what we do best: we worked together to come up with great ideas, threw half of them out, made a couple of false starts, and eventually settled on a design that balanced elegance with practicality. The first idea was fun to weld, but ultimately it wasn’t stable enough, made camera alignment difficult, and revealed a little too much of the inner workings. We eventually reduced the feature set and came up with something we could get to market and iterate on.

Idea 1 — not stable enough // Idea 2 — too expensive and too many features for the timeframe // Idea 3 — just right

Construction

While the box was simple, there were a few tricky bits to cut out for LED indicators, button, and iPad screen holes. We had precise measurements, so we needed precise tools. In this case, we opted for a Shopbot. Thanks to a magical wonderland called TechShop, there happen to be two of these at our disposal.

The Wobblr taking shape at TechShop // Hooking up the hardware in the office: 1 MacBook Pro, 2 iPads, 1 Arduino, 3 RGB leds, 1 LED bar w/ blue LEDs, 1 Big-Ass-I-know-the-answer-on-Double-Dare red button, and 3 Logitech webcams

Scenery

Any good photobooth requires a backdrop/greenscreen to create that perfect T. rex-chasing-you kind of experience. We didn’t want to break up the party-feng-shui with a big backdrop, so we decided to laser cut some vellum balls and light them up with LEDs. Easy to do, nightmare on the fingers to assemble — but worth it.

Cutting out the different sizes // Assembling and hanging the lights pre-party

Conclusion

In the end, we were all really happy with the way it turned out, and it was a blast to see people using and enjoying it throughout the party. After the party, guests could view the full stream of gifs on our Wobblr site.

A few gifs from the party

We also took a full time-lapse of the the party:

Even though we had a great time, that didn’t stop us from taking usability notes and iterating in our heads about how much cooler v2 could be


Find us on Facebook and Twitter or get in touch at thirteen23.com.

The Garage

Thoughts and experiments from the team at thirteen23, a digital product studio in Austin, Texas.

thirteen23

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We are a digital product studio in Austin, TX. We bridge the space between art and science to build intelligent software. http://thirteen23.com

The Garage

Thoughts and experiments from the team at thirteen23, a digital product studio in Austin, Texas.

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