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3D-printed iPhone case won't let you take unoriginal tourist photos

Capture more original pictures than you might otherwise with Camera Restricta, an iPhone case that actually stops you from taking shots of traditional tourist traps.

Camera Restricta is a clever hack will stop you from taking pictures at tourist traps. Philipp Schmitt

Now that pictures of pretty much everything are available online, how many new shots of the Eiffel Tower do we really need? A new 3D-printed iPhone camera case -- the Camera Restricta -- will stop you from taking photos at traditional tourist traps in hopes that you'll go out and find something more original.

The Camera Restricta was created by German design student Philipp Schmitt, and it looks similar to old-school point-and-shoot cameras. The device uses your phone's GPS and a custom Web app to pull location information from pictures publicly posted to Flickr and Panoramio to determine how many online pictures were geotagged at your location.

If too many pictures have been shot nearby (dozens, according to the video below), the shutter will retract into the case and the viewfinder will close, leaving you unable to take a picture until you go somewhere else. The shutter is powered by a microcontroller and some electronics built into the 3D-printed case.

Camera Restricta provides feedback in two ways. The back of the device will physically display both how many pictures have been taken in a location and a bright yes or no (or nein!) as to whether photos are allowed at that location. The device also emits a static noise similar to a Geiger counter representing how many pictures are nearby. The more noise you hear, the less likely you'll be able to take a picture in a given spot.

Schmitt hopes the product will result in people venturing beyond the typical tourist destinations and capturing unique pictures in relatively undiscovered places. He's not offering the Camera Restricta as a product available for purchase, but he's made the code fueling the project open source and available on GitHub so anyone who likes the idea can build upon his tech.

All told, Camera Restricta is a provocative project that challenges people to think more critically about the types of places they visit and photograph while on vacation. Perhaps, then, instead of adding to the 5 billion or so pictures of the Arc de Triomphe, for example, tourists will shoot France's lesser-explored sights.

Would you use such a service if it ever came to market either as a smartphone case or an app that restricts pictures in popular locations? Let us know in the comments section below.