In an effort to help people avoid taking the same old photos in the same old tourist traps, German designer Phillipp Schmitt has created a smartphone case that prevents you from snapping cliche pictures. Called Camera Restricta, the 3-D-printed case utilizes your smartphone's GPS to pinpoint your location, search for photos online that have been geotagged nearby, and determine if your planned shot is one that's already been captured by dozens or thousands before you.

"The camera scans an area of roughly 35x35 meters around its exact location for geotagged photos," writes Schmitt. "Cities and especially tourist sights are so thoroughly photographed that it often finds dozens or even thousands of photos."

Schmitt describes his device as a means to combat the "overflow of generic digital imagery" that saturates social media like Instagram, Flickr and Facebook. If your location has already been photographed to an offending degree, the shutter retracts and blocks the viewfinder. It's basically a gentle way of challenging you to find a new perspective.

"Of course you can't judge uniqueness of a photo just by counting the geotags nearby," adds Schmitt. "Still, it might be a good indicator for the potential of taking a special photo at a place."

In addition to telling you on the viewfinder just how many shots have already been taken of your muse, the case will also emit a noise similar to a Geiger counter, with each clicking sound representing a photo detected nearby. While Schmitt says the project does impose some limitations, he adds that it also creates some new thrills such as "being the first or last person to photograph a certain place."

The Camera Restricta's software has been made available online for anyone who might want to add on to what Schmitt has started. He believes a physical camera built around the idea is a possibility, but that the concept could also be pulled off in "a software update, transforming your smartphone into a camera restricta."

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

This camera case won't allow you to take unoriginal photos
Camera Restricta uses your smartphone GPS to determine if the shot you're about to take has already been captured too many times.