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The next photo you see while shopping online may have been snapped by a robot


The next image that catches your eye while you’re shopping online may not have been snapped by a human. This week, Square Inc., a payment-processing platform, announced the launch of Square Photo Studio, a service that snaps product photos for small businesses using a robotic photo studio. And this particular robot works for peanuts — a set of three photos costs just $9.95.

Square Photo Studio is a $20,000 robot that lives inside a warehouse in Brooklyn, according to the Los Angeles Times. The robot uses a familiar product photography setup consisting of a table, a white background, and lots of lights. The robotic “photographer” is a Nikon DSLR attached to a mechanical arm, which moves around to capture the item from multiple angles.

The robotic photo studio is designed to replace DIY product photos and smartphone snapshots for small businesses that can’t afford to hire a professional photographer, though the $10 service could eliminate some work for photographers. Square says the robotic photo studio offers product photos within 14 days at a tenth of the usual cost. Businesses ship their product to the studio (shipping costs are not included in the studio fee) and in less than two weeks, they receive a set of three digital photos. The robotic studio will also create 3D models, delivering an animation of all sides of the product for about $30.

Square Photo Studio

While a robotic arm in a white studio isn’t designed to replace elaborate setups, the service aims to deliver that traditional white background product photo on the cheap. Despite the camera being manned by a robot, business owners can request specific angles when sending in the product. 

The photographer is nonhuman, but the service uses staff to select the best images for delivery. Images are also professionally retouched, Square says, with clothing shot on “ghost” mannequins that are removed from the final image.

“Without being able to physically touch a product, photography is an essential component to selling online, whether on your online store or on other channels like Amazon, Etsy, and Instagram,” David Rusenko, the general manager of eCommerce at Square, said in a press release. “We built Square Photo Studio because we don’t want anyone to be priced out of professional product photography. We’re always working on new and exciting ways to give online sellers access to the tools they need to make a sale — regardless of what channel they’re selling on.”

While launched by the popular payment-processing company, the product photography services are available to businesses that are not Square customers, as well as businesses currently using the payment services.

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