Pic Nix

We’ve all been there. You’ve got some time to kill, so you check Instagram. And someone you follow has posted a picture of their kid walking on a beach into the sunset for the 37th time in two weeks. But you know this person too well to just un-follow them. That's why we created Pic Nix, so you can anonymously tell that friend to stop posting cliched photos.

About Pic Nix

About the project

The Pic Nix experience begins at PicNix.co where you follow an intuitive three-step process to craft an anonymous post. Start by selecting the Instagram user you want to call out. Next, choose the offense that needs to be addressed. And third, select one of two pre-populated photo captions that include the offender’s username. You then review a customized Instagram mockup of the post, and once satisfied, it’s submitted through the site.

It’s a simple user experience, but things get a little more interesting on the backend. Instagram blocks 3rd party applications from automating photo publishing. In other words, the only way to post a picture to Instagram is through Instagram. So in order for Pic Nix to exist, a workaround had to be created.

We considered everything from reverse-engineering the app to hiring interns to publish posts. But one solution perfectly balanced a novel approach with functionality: use a robot to automate posts. We dubbed it SILENT B.O.B., and B.O.B. allows us to publish the photos to Instagram, 24/7, by mimicking human interaction with the Instagram app on an iPhone. Basically, we created our own custom Instagram post API powered by robotic input. And preserved the sanity of our interns along the way.

When you submit a post through PicNix.co, it's sent to a custom JAVA application that controls our robot and a Bluetooth keyboard emulator. The robot handles building the physical post within the app by tapping coordinates on the iPhone. During this process, the Bluetooth keyboard emulator "types" in the image caption and user handle, allowing SILENT B.O.B to create each post in about two minutes.

The submission is published to the PicNixer Instagram account, calling out the offending Instagram user by tagging them in the post. The next time the intended target opens Instagram, they’ll receive an alert that PicNixer has tagged them. You remain anonymous, and the annoying Instagrammer is put on notice.

Why?

Beyond the humanitarian effort to help rid Instagram of clichéd posts, a&g Labs plays in a world linking technology and human behavior. In an effort to never stop learning, we are constantly inventing and creating. This isn’t just a fun and exciting solution to a problem. It’s a new skillset and knowledge base that we can eventually use in a real-world application for a brand experience on behalf of our clients.

Click on the diagram for a more in-depth look at how Pic Nix works.

Our team didn’t just sit back while the robot did all of the work. Ensuring a great user experience was a top priority.

The robot is a Makeblock XY-plotter. We added a servo, rack, and pinion to create a linear actuator. A capacitive stylus affixed to the rack taps coordinates on the iPhone.
One of the 16 image categories users select and post to the Pic Nix Instagram account.