This printer searches Instagram for your #hashtag, then prints out free photos

“Err, Hashtag?” I said to the man that opened the door to an office in Richmond, London. I wasn’t being deliberately obtuse, or attempting some form of “random” comedy; that was the name of the company I’d come to see.

After a concerning pause, he said, “Sure!” I followed as he led me through a plush foyer, and out into a large open plan office. It was at this point I couldn’t help but notice I was surrounded by underwear — from pictures on the wall, to huge rails filled with skimpy, and often sexy, undergarments. I began to wonder if I had the right place, and my use of the word Hashtag had actually been taken as a password for some Eyes Wide Shut-style party. Fortunately (or not, depending on your view), I was shown to a separate office where Hashtag’s team of two were waiting. I was there to see an Instagram printer, which as it turned out, would probably do pretty well at that party.

Insta-print, but only by hashtag

Here’s how it works. Say it’s your wedding, and you and all the guests want to take and share photos of the happy day. That’s great, but why wait until after it’s all over to enjoy them? What you need is a way to print them out, plus wouldn’t it be cool to have your own hashtag for the day? That way, everyone could follow along, and pictures wouldn’t get lost out in the ether.

Hashtag’s fun Instagram Printer is a super-fast photo printer with an interactive, connected, social photo gallery built-in.

That’s where Hashtag’s printer comes in. It sits in the corner, connected to the Internet, and monitors Instagram and Twitter for your special wedding hashtag. When it finds tagged pictures, it fires up the printer and spits out your own real-world copy of the photo. On the big touchscreen, an ever-updating grid of thumbnail pictures shows all the photos taken already, which can be tapped, enlarged, viewed, and even printed again. Everything is customizable, from the look of the printer and its stand, to the software and the hashtag, and even the surround on the photo itself – making it part of the whole party experience.

Hashtag’s fun Instagram Printer is a super-fast photo printer with an interactive, connected, social photo gallery built-in, and it could be the big party hit of the coming year. It takes the popularity of the photo booth to the next level. Instead of making do with often poor quality, staged snaps from those machines, the Hashtag printer brings to life those spontaneous shareable pictures we love to take – in a more fun and social way. Why squash all your friends into or around a booth, when you can take a cool selfie with your phone, share it online, and immediately print out multiple copies for everyone?

Fast and portable

Hashtag’s clever thermal printer takes seconds to find your photo online, warm up and finally spit out your picture; an important point because if the share-to-print time ratio is too long, no one is going to bother. I saw it demonstrated several times, and the wait was rarely longer than 20 or 30 seconds in total. Plus, the printer was starting cold, and once it’s up to temperature at an event, each picture emerges in about 11 seconds. Interestingly, the pictures were the usual 6 x 4-sized prints, but this will change. New printers are being built that will print pictures half that size. The idea is, the unusual size means they’ll be easily slipped into a wallet or pocket, and therefore more of a memento.

#HASHTAG-Mini-twitter-&-Instagram-printer_0136
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Although the Hashtag Instagram Printer looks massive in the pictures, it’s actually standing on a plinth, and the box on top really holds the printer and a Windows tablet. It could happily sit on a desk. The modem inside connects to Wi-Fi, 3G, or a 4G LTE, and the whole thing needs nothing more than an electrical outlet to operate. At capacity, it’ll handle 300 pictures from a single color cartridge and round of paper. There’s a good chance not even the most eager photo sharers will get through that lot in a single go.

Free prints

Hashtag’s director, Andrew Theodore, told me the company’s only been operating since April last year, but proved to be an instant success, selling out all available lease slots for the remainder of the year. The machine demonstrated is a prototype, and it’s about to be joined by ten others, ready for the coming summer season. Although Hashtag’s targeting brands, events, and businesses with the Instagram Printer, there’s nothing stopping an individual hiring one for their own party. It’ll cost you £950 (that’s about $1,360) though.

That’s quite a bit to splash out for your 25th birthday bash down the pub; but for a brand wanting to get their hashtag trending for promotional purposes, not so much. The Instagram Printer has huge potential for helping companies reach massive numbers of people online. Remember, for a photo to be printed, it needs the correct hashtag attached, and that could equal a lot of sharing. Obviously, people need to love it first, so what’s the reaction like? Theodore told me the concept is initially difficult for people to grasp – free photos? Really? – but all it takes is one person to give it a try, and then everyone wants a go. And then another. Companies are putting more and more emphasis on social media for marketing campaigns, which means the Hashtag Instagram Printer is coming along at just the right time.

It’s good news for us, because a Hashtag printer could be waiting at the opening of that cool new bar, at the next concert we go to, when we try on a flashy new suit at the tailors, or have a pro makeover at the salon. In fact, anywhere we may want to take and share a picture, and judging by the 80 million pictures uploaded to Instagram every day, that’s just about everywhere. The company gets their hashtag out there, and our memories of the day are captured online and in print, for free. That sounds like the definition of a win-win to us.

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