FINALLY! I figured it out! This is THE gift!
You remember Thomas Edison? He’s the guy who saved homo sapiens from dinosaurs, found America, invented the Internet, and wrote Gangnam style. Oh, looking at that list, he probably invented time travel too.
The point is, and how this will amazingly segway into the rest of this article, he was famously quoted for saying “I have found 10,000 ways it won’t work” about inventing the light bulb. He had to try and fail before finding a solution that worked.
My story is basically the same as his. Except instead of lightbulbs its digital picture frames. And instead of inventing I just bought them. And instead of 10,000 it was 3. Despite those differences, this story has the same triumphant conclusion, and today I am sharing that exhilarating nugget of knowledge with you. Ready for the next light bulb?
I thought digital picture frames were a brilliant idea from the start. Load hundreds of photos onto a digital screen and suddenly your photo collection was on display for all to see. However, it was always a huge pain because you had to physically load them with a USB stick, which, like remembering to backup your computer, never happens. And, those first screens had pretty terrible resolution too. And they were tiny. They were kind of like a light bulb that ran only on plutonium. Just missed the mark.
Then, I thought since wifi photo frames are a thing now I’d give them a try. Basically the same concept instead you could upload photos from your smartphone or computer wherever you are. Get the frame for Grandma, set it up on her kitchen counter, then the whole family could contribute in real time to her frame. Brilliant! On top of that, the rest of the family could see all the photos via a smartphone app. And, if you wanted you could buy your own frame and link it to the same account. Ok, now we’re getting somewhere.
There were a few downsides to that as well. The frames are relatively expensive ($180ish) and only 10” or so. Then, if I wanted to download all the photos my sister uploaded it was tedious and the images were not full resolution. It also wasn’t interactive, so no one could comment on your photos (do they even like me?). Last, you wouldn’t know when someone uploaded new pictures. All in all, it was a great solution for a Grandma gift but it could’ve been better for the rest of the contributors/users.
Bigger. Cheaper. Better. You ready?
Google photos shared album + Google Chromecast ($35) + any screen with HDMI (free if you have some lying around)
Here’s how it works, using my scenario as an example. Set up a shared google album “Feutz Family” and share it with siblings and grandparents. If necessary, teach people how to join it, view and upload. Buy a Chromecast. Re-purpose or buy an HDMI screen (tv, monitor, whatever). In the Chromecast app (google home on your phone) go into the “Ambient settings”, link it to your google photos album, and away you go. You can now not only share photos in one unified place but you can also display them in your house, Grandmas house, wherever you want. I’m using 3 old screens in my house. Also there is a chromecast on our main watching screen so if we want to look at photos together as a family we can.
Upsides. 1) Affordable. 2) Whatever size screen you want. 3) The photos app notifies you when someone has uploaded. 4) You can comment or like pictures. 5) You can download one photo or the whole album easily from computer or phone. 6) Very versatile since you can plug a chromecast into anything with HDMI. 7) If you have other google photos albums you can add those to the shuffle as well. 8) Chromecast itself is nice to have for casting pictures or videos from your phone to a bigger screen.
Downsides. 1) Power management - Some of the new picture frames will automatically turn off if they don’t detect motion. Can’t do that with this solution. I added WEMO smart plugs to schedule them on and off, plus I can tell Alexa to turn them on or off. 2) Old photos - The newer picture frames allow you to say “shuffle latest 100 photos” so as your album grows you’re not seeing really old stuff. Not so with Chromecast. For now I like seeing the old stuff but if I don’t I’ll create a “Feutz Family Archive” shared album and periodically move the older stuff to there.
So there you have it. Me and Thomas Edison, changing the world one humanity saving idea at a time. Next up is a virtual mediator to make political and religious arguments civil. Wish me luck!
If you want more info on how to make this work or what it looks like check out the video I made.
And by made, I mean I wanted to make. But you know…time.
But! If you do have questions or comments, this article will be on Facebook so comment there and we’ll help you out!