May 23, 2024

Transform Photos into Poems with AI-Powered Camera and App


The Poetry Camera and iPhone app Pamera take Artificial Intelligence in a new direction. Instead of increasing efficiency, reducing costs, or preventing fraud – all great uses of AI – this sets out for artistic creation and fun. The Camera is a mash-up of an instant camera and a street poet. Pamera uses the phone’s built-in camera to provide the image for a poem. Both give you a poem generated by AI from visual data.

Industries as diverse as e-commerce, healthcare, and agriculture embrace the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence. We posted an earlier article on the impact of AI in photography. So, with plenty of AI applications designed to make us more productive, safer, and richer, this is different and refreshing.

In this article, we’ll explain how the Poetry Camera and Pamera work and show some of their results. Both reverse the process of writing a few lines of text to create an AI-generated image. That is, they convert a photograph into a few lines of text in a poetic style.

Capturing Moments with the Poetry Camera

The Poetry Camera “prints poems instead of pictures,” according to the website. It began as a personal project to generate poetry based on visual input. Created by Ryan Mather and Kelin Carolyn Zhang, it uses machine learning algorithms to analyze images and transform them into nicely crafted poems.

With its combination of photography and art, the Camera offers a creative way to capture moments in a literary form.

Snap a photograph with this camera and its internal open source code technology analyzes the image data to generate a poem, rather than a photo. In short, this fusion of art and technology offers people a new way to express themselves and explore a form of written communication.

poetry camera printout
A printout of a poem generated by the Poetry Camera © Ryan Mather.

Leave Capitalism and Instagram Culture Behind

What began as a side project for Zhang and Mather consumed countless hours of modifying camera components and testing various AI programs. In the end, the Poetry Camera integrated the visual and literary arts to give us a new platform to capture moments.

Zhang and Mather considered making the Camera available commercially. However, in an interview with TechCrunch, Zhang called it an “art project.” The initial response, she added “was to leave capitalism out of it.” Prioritize quality over mass production.

Meet the Creators

Zhang graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Bachelors degree in computer science. As an undergraduate researcher in Artificial Intelligence, she held internships at Adobe, Microsoft, and Square. And in 2019, she founded asdf, an art studio and design firm.

Mather earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in industrial design at Rhode Island School of Design. He is lead design for Sudowrite and held similar roles at Google and Resource. Also, he volunteers with iMentor and Children’s Friend.

How to Build a Poetry Camera 

Zhang and Mather posted build-your-own instructions for the Camera on their website. The instructions are simply written and “intended for complete beginners.” From what I’ve been able to determine, the cost of the major components would be about $150.

The major components:

  • Raspberry Pi Zero 2: a single-board computer about the size of a credit card.
  • Raspberry Pi Camera Module 3.
  • Mini Thermal Printer with TTL serial connection.
  • Open AI’s GPT-4, a multimodal large language model.

In this merger of hardware and AI, Raspberry Pi extracts data from the image and sends it to the GPT-4 application. Then, the AI component codifies the visual data based on patterns, colors, and significant elements, such as the feelings or emotions that may be visible. Finally, it generates several lines of verse to be printed.

poetry camera modules
The camera module of the Poetry Camera © Ryan Mather.

Of course, you’ll need a housing, batteries, buttons, and various components to complete the project. And if you’re fluent in source code, you could modify it to create your own style of poetry.

Yes, There’s an App for That

Pamera, the poem camera app, is available for iPhone ($2.99 in the App Store). Snap a picture on your phone’s built-in camera or select a photo from your camera roll. And then, the app generates a poem written by artificial intelligence.

Pamera integrates an object identifier with OpenAI’s GPT-4 to recognize items in the image and generate a four-line poem. So, the concept is similar to the Camera.

Damjanski, an “artist living in a browser” and a co-founder of Do Something Good, developed Pamera. As he said in an interview with Gizmodo, the camera poems are created in the style of Jorge Luis Borges, an Argentine poet and essayist highly regarded in international literature. Damjanski chose Borges for the “magical realism” in the poet’s works,

My Own Experience with Pamera

I downloaded the Pamera app to my iPhone and experimented with it. First, I took a photo of a bouquet of flowers. But the app gave me a “No Objects Detected” message with further instructions to “Point at a scene with a bunch of objects.” My first instinct was that I needed more light and more detail. So I went outside and tried the app on several scenes, including a car, a rose bush, and some outdoor furniture. But I could not get Pamera to work with photos taken on the phone’s camera.

However, when I selected photos for poems from my camera roll, I had better results. Still, most of my pictures yielded a “No Objects Detected” message. But several worked. And the picture below of my dog resulted in the poem that follows.

dog at beach
A dog at the beach photo for Pamera poem.
poem by pamera
AI-generated poem of the above photo of a dog.

Maybe my brain function is not sufficiently abstract, but I don’t see how a horse and a cow are grazing together with the dog. So, I think the app needs further development.

Also, I tried Pamera on my MacBook and got about the same results as with the cell phone.


Both the Poetry Camera and Pamera do the same thing in different ways. But the Camera does it better, and Pamera sometimes does not at all. Also, neither makes an assertion of being an innovative product or solving some problem. They’re just for fun and creativity, entertaining friends at social gatherings, or sparking conversation with family members.

If you decide to build your own Poetry Camera or download Pamera, I hope you have fun with it. And if the device adds extra meaning to your photography experience, that’s an added bonus.

If you have any comments or questions, please submit them in the space below.

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