App Spotlight: Instaprint

Like many apps developed on a shoestring, Burbn’s Instagram photography app doesn’t do many things. Now Breakfast, a cross between a 21st century digital ad agency and a high school metal shop, is stepping into the void with an Instagram extension that lets people print out their photos.

Instaprint is a retro-looking digital photo printer, the size of a lunchbox that extends the functionality of Instagram by physically printing photos that it identifies within the app either by a common hashtag or by a common location, in a format that resembles an old-fashioned Polaroid. Instagram has attracted nearly 2 million users in just five months of its application that lets them easily apply a filter to iPhone photos.
The device — or “toy” in Breakfast lingo — is right up the shop’s alley. Its past projects have included a Foursquare-enabled blimp to promote Conan O’Brien’s new TV show. Passersby in Manhattan could check into the blimp from the ground.
Michael Lipton, Breakfast’s account director and co-founder, said that his company was interested in developing a symbiotic device for Instagram because they recognized that even though the app was not unique, it was very well designed.
“There are other apps that are similar enough to Instagram,” said Lipton. “There are subtle things that Instagram just did right. That’s what’s driven their success.”
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Although Lipton doesn’t have any specific vision for the way in which brands might use the photo printer, he expects that marketers will invent new ways to use the device in the same way that they have created new ways to use Instagram. “There are applications,” he said. “Like with any new marketing medium, it’s a means to get your message out.”
Instaprint is less a business than a prototype for what’s possible when marketers get comfortable with APIs. Breakfast, for instance, outfitted a copywriter friend’s bike with several sensors for her cross-country cycling trip. The result was what could be the world’s first tweeting bike. The effort got the attention of people at Turner, which contacted Breakfast for the Conan blimp project. Think of it as show don’t tell marketing.
Already about 100 people have inquired about renting Instaprint for weddings, according to Lipton. The agency will be demonstrating two of the devices during the South by Southwest Interactive conference next week — one that will print photos sorted by their tags and one that will print photos sorted by location.
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