AI Camera Inspired By Star-Nosed Mole Snaps "Photos" Without Taking Photos

Paragraphica uses your location and artificial intelligence to build an image.


Rachael Funnell


Rachael Funnell

Digital Content Producer

Rachael is a writer and digital content producer at IFLScience with a Zoology degree from the University of Southampton, UK, and a nose for novelty animal stories.

Digital Content Producer

paragraphica ai camera

Artificial intelligence could mean you don't need a lens to snap a photo of your holiday.

Image courtesy of Bjørn Karmann

A camera shaped like a star-nosed mole can take photos without needing a lens. How? Because it doesn’t take a photo at all, but instead uses artificial intelligence (AI) to generate an image of where you’re standing.

The concept has been named Paragraphica by creator Bjørn Karmann, a senior experience and interaction designer based in Amsterdam. It exists both as a physical camera and a digital experience that users can try online.


“Paragraphica is a context-to-image camera that uses location data and artificial intelligence to visualize a "photo" of a specific place and moment,” Karmann explains. “The viewfinder displays a real-time description of your current location, and by pressing the trigger, the camera will create a scintigraphic representation of the description.”

Complete with physical dials to alter the appearance of the image in a way that Karmann says mimics a traditional camera, Paragraphica has proven itself capable of taking remarkably on-point images in proof of concept shots on the site.

The thought process behind the project including a Noodl screenshot showing how Karmann built the web app that facilitates the camera-to-location-based-image process can be found online. Our personal highlight is the unique tech’s inspiration: the star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata).

star nosed mole camera
Do you see the resemblance?
Image credit: Lindenwood via iNaturalistCC BY-NC 4.0, cropped

The bizarre snoots of these strange animals are equipped with 22 fleshy tentacles (more scientifically known as nasal appendages) that it uses to snuffle through water and soil in search of food. These animals do have eyes but they’re barely functional, rendering them pretty much blind.

No bother for the star-nosed mole, however, as they’ve adapted to life underground where the ability to detect light would be useless anyhow. Instead, they've learned to see through a different sense by employing their bizarre noses to navigate the environment, hunt, smell underwater, and possibly even see.

What they lack in sight they make up for with the fovea – a sensory organ that closely mimics that of a visual system. Even weirder yet, they will position the fovea (that sits in the middle of the star nose) in the direction that they’re investigating, indicating that it could be helping them to build some kind of picture of their environment.

AI camera
Like the star-nosed mole, Karmann's AI camera doesn't need light to function.
Image courtesy of Bjørn Karmann

“This amazing animal became the perfect metaphor and inspiration for how empathizing with other intelligences and the way they perceive the world can be nearly impossible to imagine from a human perspective,” said Karmann.


“The camera offers a way of experiencing the world around us, one that is not limited to visual perception alone. Through location data and AI image synthesis, ‘Paragraphica’ provides deeper insight into the essence of a moment through the perspective of other intelligences.”

So, could you be persuaded to travel with a camera that shoots blind?


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  • camera,

  • photography,

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  • AI technology,

  • artifical intelligence