BigShot: Digital Camera Kit for Kids Seeks Grown-Up Funding

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Is it a toy, a teaching tool, or a colorful traveling companion for young tourists? Yes. Such is the case with the BigShot, a digital camera kit aimed at teaching youngsters what makes today’s pocket-size photographic wonders click.

The kit, developed by students at the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University, isn’t for sale quite yet, but the appearance of the BigShot at its own display table at the recent Toy Fair 2011 in New York was a clear indication that it’s almost ready for prime time. The camera was conceived by Shree K. Nayar, head of Columbia’s Computer Vision Laboratory and chairman of the Department of computer science.

Even when finished, the camera, which comes in a choice of colors, looks like a work in progress. The rear cover is clear and the lens turret on the front looks as if it’s short a couple pieces. Once assembled, the two-megapixel camera will be able to take panoramic and 3D photos as well as standard digital snapshots. The 3D images are made possible by using a special prism lens which divides the image into right- and left-eye images.

While the camera lacks a rear LCD panel, it has a few features not found on mainstream digital cameras—like the crank installed on one side. The camera can be powered with an AA battery, but if the battery runs down you can keep shooting by turning the crank, which spins a small dynamo which charges an internal capacitor. The crank provides enough power for one shot every four to six rotations, according to the BigShot website.

The camera has been already been tested in the U.S. and overseas and manufacturers have already been identified, said Guru Krishnan, a student manning the booth at Toy Fair. If and when the unit makes it to stores, it may come with a higher-resolution sensor, said Krishnan, who developed software for downloading and processing images captured by the unit.

Krishnan said the camera was made to be durable and pointed out that internal components had to be easy to handle, smooth and without sharp edges and the instructions had to be simple enough to be assembled by young users. The task now, he said, is to raise the capital to build, distribute and market the BigShot and to decide on pricing.

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This story, "BigShot: Digital Camera Kit for Kids Seeks Grown-Up Funding" was originally published by PCWorld.

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