The BigShot camera isn't currently available to purchase, with only a limited number of prototypes in existence at the moment which are being used in weekly workshops for kids aged eight to 14. According to te Global Impact section of Columbia's news website, Nayar hopes that the Bigshot could eventually be sold on a similar basis to the One Laptop Per Child Association's XO-1 laptop, with retail sales helping to subsidize the cost of donations to schools in low-income areas of the United States and other countries.
Pricing under such a scheme would apparently be on the order of $100, for which one would receive the BigShot camera as a selection of around twenty component parts, plus the screws required to put it all together. As the workshops would suggest, the design is intended to be such that an eight year old child should be able to manage the assembly process. A special website offers instructions on how to assemble the camera, as well as detailed information on how the individual components work to create the final image.
Specifications for the BigShot are basic, but in a way that's not really the point. The camera is based around a 1.9 megapixel Bayer-filtered CMOS image sensor, along with a built-in flash strobe, an unspecified amount of onboard memory and a USB connection. On the front panel, a rotating lens wheel offers three pairs of lens and viewfinder - a normal lens with 43° field of view, a panoramic lens with 72° field of view, and a stereo prism which captures side-by-side images with a 16° horizontal field of view. These last can be processed into an anaglyph using BigShot's software, for viewing with red-cyan 3D glasses. Power for the flash strobe comes from an AA battery, while unusually the remainder of the camera is powered by a hand-cranked dynamo that requires four to six rotations at a speed of 30-60rpm to capture a single photo.
Front (top) and rear (bottom) views of the BigShot digital camera.
Photos provided by the Computer Vision Laboratory, Columbia University.
The purpose of the dynamo is multifold. It teaches children how the mechanism works, allowing them to assemble the gearing. It also helps reduce reliance on batteries (and the waste they create), as well as attracting attention to the camera and providing a talking point. Notably, the design lacks an LCD display, with the only status indication provided by a pair of LEDs - one green, and one red. While this might initially look to be a disadvantage, it could in some ways be seen as a positive aspect of the design. By removing the ability to immediately see (and reshoot) every photo, the lack of an LCD could help a child learn to think more carefully about their photo before pressing the shutter release. Instead of the LCD panel, almost the entire rear surface of the BigShot is a transparent plastic cover which allows the inner workings to be seen. The remainder of the chassis is planned to come in a variety of bright, eyecatching colors kids will love, with the various controls in white plastic to help them stand out.
All in all, it's an interesting idea, and one we'd imagine could prove popular with schools, as well as with parents interested in their childrens' education. While the price is perhaps high as compared to other low-cost digicams which offer comparable features with the exception of the dynamo power source, that's understandable given what would likely be low product volumes, coupled with the buy-one, donate-one scheme. $100 is easily affordable for a lot of parents, and the opportunity for learning in the BigShot design is rather greater than with the typical kid-oriented digicam.
More details can be found on the BigShot camera website, and the Columbia University news site.
Component parts of the BigShot digital camera.
Photo provided by the Computer Vision Laboratory, Columbia University.