I always loved the idea of the digital picture frame. It was the perfect solution to the problem so many of us face in the digital photography age: How can I get more of these pictures off my phone or digital camera, and into my life? Thanks to their small screens, ugly, bulky profiles and complicated uploading features, the entire category was a failure and has essentially fizzled out: Companies really never invested in a beautiful, easy user experience, and customers responded with a resounding, Thanks but no thanks.
You can draw a direct line from the digital picture frames of old to the new “digital canvases” that are beginning to launch this year— a pricier, prettier, more elevated experience where you can display curated digital art (still or moving) along with your family photos on a vibrant display. Most of them sport 4K video displays (hence their hefty price tags) and their 16:9 ratio makes them look right at home next to other artworks on a gallery wall, especially those that boast a “matte” screen that make them look less “TV” and more “fine art”. Some also feature a mat and a frame, which really adds to the gallery feel.
While some digital canvases are available now, many are coming soon, and so their performance has yet to be tested. But they all offer the promise of an ever-rotating, continually inspiring collection that you can change with a couple of taps and swipes. Before you check out the examples below, some things you need to know:
1) They aren’t cheap. Sleek profiles, millions of colors and wifi connectivity come at a price: These frames are an investment, priced between $399 and $1800.
2) You’ll have to pay for art: Digital art isn’t free, and a frame’s marketplace is luring artists who are interested in charging for their work. Expect to shell out between $10 and $50 (or a monthly fee) for a new piece of artwork, unless you’re planning to display vacation photos only. (That said, not all frames will allow you to upload your own art, so make sure you check before you assume you’ll be able to do so.)
3) You’ll need to plug it in: Most of the promotional photos show digital canvases hanging on the wall, looking sharp. But you’ll have to have a power outlet right behind the frame to achieve this look, or run an unsightly wire to the nearest floor outlet. Many look good leaning on the wall or a mantel too, so that’s another display option.
Canviz is small, but versatile. Tap into an artist community to discover and display great content, or add your art, photos, movies and animated GIFs with the swipe of a finger. Canviz’s app wireless communicates with the frame, letting you control and schedule what it displays, when it goes to sleep and even a display of the weather. Best of all, it displays in portrait or landscape orientation, so it works with any masterpiece. The Canviz HD frame is 14 x 22, and comes with mounting hardware and a rear recess for hiding the cord and outlet. No price or release date yet.
Curater, launched by Acne, is a digital art exhibition system, which streams curated art exhibitions from the worlds best artists and curators to your home. Opting for a tighter artistic strategy, this is the frame for someone who doesn’t mind someone else taking control over what they display on their wall: Curater will display 6-8 exclusive and carefully curated exhibitions per year. It’s a closed subscription-based system by invitation only— initially distributed to a maximum of 500 users— so you won’t be able to see these art pieces anywhere else. The Curater LED canvases come in a range of sizes— 17”, 32”, 42” and 60”, and are beautifully designed, front and back. Prices have not yet been published, but you will have to pay a “reasonable” (not yet disclosed) monthly fee to access the art after you’ve shelled out for the frame. There is no set release date for Curater, but their press release says “within 12 months”… fingers crossed.
Depict is a system that connects your digital canvas to hundreds of original works of art by established and emerging artists. Depict’s frame comes in three finishes, (the maple pictured above is my favorite), and features an Ultra HD 4K screen that connects to your Wifi to display art. At nearly 4’ wide and 2.5’ high, it’s a big, beautiful, ever-rotating artistic statement on your wall. Reserve a frame now (for $1800) and you’ll get four exclusive commissioned artworks. The rest will cost you between $10 and $50 per edition, or you can upload your own 16:9 piece of 4K art to your Depict Cloud account and cast it to your frame. Pre-order now for Spring 2016 delivery.
The EO1 from Electric Objects is the most affordable of the digital canvas gang— it features a 1080p LCD panel and is well-sized at 21.75″ x 13”. It can be hung or sat on a countertop (note: it only operates in portrait orientation). The screen’s matte finish makes it feel more like paper than a TV, and it’s smart enough to power down when you’re not in front of it, prolonging it’s screen life and saving you energy. The frame has no buttons (like many of them)— you upload photos, videos or artwork from an iOS or Android app or the Electronic Objects website. Choose your own pictures or videos, or tap the Art Club original works from art partners and institutions. The EO1 comes in black or white, and is available now for $399.
Framed is a gorgeous HD display framed in a hand-crafted walnut. Framed’s art marketplace features provocative still and moving artworks that you can “flick” from your smartphone (iPhone or Android) to your frame with a simple hand gesture. Unfortunately, Framed has had some stumbles and huge delays since launching on Kickstarter almost a year ago, including creating 24-inch frames for the MOMA store before they fulfilled their backer orders (let’s just say backers were NOT happy). But I’m willing to overlook all that if the product works, because I did spy one (at the MOMA store) and it’s as beautiful as it looks online. Purchase art in the marketplace, or display many compatible files, including GIFs video or other animations. Note: No warrantee, no delivery date yet (except for initial backers, who are finally getting their frames). 24” is currently available at MOMA for $899.
Memento’s website points out that while our cameras take pictures at 8 megapixels or more, that our regular HD TV screens only show them at 1.7 megapixels. Memento’s digital frame sports a 4K ultra-HD display boosts your viewing pleasure to 7 megapixels, with a matte finish that tricks your eye into thinking you’re looking at a dazzling high quality print, not just a picture on a screen. Memento is available in a 25” ($699) and 35” ($899) size, and is Wifi controlled, and like the rest you can upload artwork to it using an app (Memento also has a PC or Mac interface). They’ve thought of everything, including the fact that you might not have an outlet on the wall where you want to hang a frame— so they’ve created an optional paper-thin and flexible flat power cable that you can run discretely to the outlet below and paint over so it disappears. The Memento also adjusts it’s brightness to match your home’s lighting, and automatically turns off when the lights go out. Available now.
Meural is a nice size— 32” x 21” and boasts a high-definition, 16 million color display. It’s matte finish and low reflectivity give it a paper feel, and let you see every brushstroke or grain of photography you’re displaying. Like Memento, Meural will adjust to the light in the room, making the art look more natural and less “backlit.” The app will allow you to control the connected canvas and find new art (you can easily send pictures you’ve just taken from your phone to the frame), but it’s gesture controls steal the show. Just approach the frame and wave your hand change the artwork. Meural comes in black or white ($445) or a limited edition natural maple lightbox $445) which makes the screen appear as if it’s floating behind glass— an impressive touch. Pre-reserve now for Early 2016 delivery.
Do you like the idea of a digital picture frame? I kind of can’t wait for them! Let me know in the comments…