A Digital Canvas That’s Hard to Spot

While sorely lacking in pictures of the innards of this digital canvas, we were extremely impressed with the work that went into making such a convincing object. [Clay Bavor] wanted a digital picture frame, but couldn’t find one on the market that did what he wanted. They all had similar problems, the LCDs were the lowest quality, they were in cheap bezels, they had weird features, they had no viewing angle, and they either glowed like the sun or were invisible in dark environments.

[Clay] started with the LCD quality, he looked at LCD specs for the absolute best display, and then, presumably, realized he lived in a world where money is no object and bought a 27″ iMac. The iMac has a very high pixel density, no viewing angle, and Apple goes through the trouble of color balancing every display. Next he got a real frame for the iMac, cut a hole in the wall to accommodate it, and also had a mat installed to crop the display to a more convincing aspect ratio for art. One of the most interesting part of the build is the addition of a Phidgets light sensor. Using this, he has some software running that constantly adjusts the Mac to run at a brightness that’s nearly imperceptible in the room’s lighting.

Once he had it built he started to play around with the software he wrote for the frame. Since he wanted the frame to look like a real art print he couldn’t have the image change while people were looking, so he used the camera on the Mac and face detection to make sure the image only changed when no one was looking for a few minutes. He also has a mode that trolls the user by changing the image as soon as they look away.

We admit that a hackier version of this would be tearing the panel out of a broken iMac and using a lighter weight computer to run all the display stuff. [Clay] reached the same conclusion and plans to do something similar for his version 2.0.

[via Hacker News]

31 thoughts on “A Digital Canvas That’s Hard to Spot

      1. Apple computers: fun to use for real work, no time wasted on housekeeping.

        Yeah, I know I’m feeding trolls – don’t want them to starve or PETA will be after us…

        Also, very nice! I built something similar years ago, but the thickness of the display meant it never looked quite like a picture. Mounting it into the wall is a great plan.

        1. This is much cooler and could be done for the cost of an 27″ 5K iMac depending on the 1080p displays used. Or you could walk people down the hall and show them your $1800 picture fame. “Don’t look away or it will troll you”.

    1. +1

      This is a Masterpiece in itself.
      I suspect the inards (or should I type “inarts” ? ;-) ) are not much more than a stripped down iMac, but I wonder what materials were used to achieve that canvas effect

      The whole part on display parameters management based on the ambient light is fascinating.

      Big thumbs up to [Clay Bavor]

  1. With a network of decent digital canvases it should be possible to make something like the pictures in Hogwarts where the drawn persons can visit each other. Or has that already been done?

  2. “realized he lived in a world where money is no object ” sigh and here I live in a world where money is a scarce object. Hoping this trend does not continue here at “GoldPlateaDay” :-) On the other hand I’m waiting for the article “[Joe Blow] and partner [Jane] couldn’t decide on colors for their family room. So they used 250 frameless 72″ 4K monitors to build the walls. A rfid tag system tracks who is in the room and makes the changes to the wall colors”

        1. rear-projection walls in a home were actually hypothesized/predicted decades ago by one of the Gernsback magazines (Popular Electronics maybe?). Wish I could remember when. 50’s maybe?

      1. Honestly with the price of stand-alone 5k displays you probably wouldn’t save a whole lot if your goal is the ‘best digital photo frame I can build’, which seems to be the case here.

        The alternative I guess would be just going 4k. You can get decent IPS 4k displays now for a good bit less then an iMac. Since frame rate is irrelevant, you could presumably drive 4k at low refresh (~15Hz?) from anything that would let you do custom video settings like that.

    1. Bill Gates had that in his house, well, sort of. Great big LCD panels, and as people moved round the house, tags on them made the frames show “their favorite art”. Why have a dusty old painting when you can have ALL paintings!?

      You can’t buy class.

  3. Next iteration will be to put a very good wireless A3 printer in the wall, feed it with a 15m roll of photopaper, and have the output pass to the front of the picture frame. Good printers these days can reproduce pictures almost like they are the real thing, without any active display.
    Add a shredder below the picture frame that gets rid of the excess paintings and there you have a very artsy-craftsy installation every hipster would be proud of…

    1. Marcel Duchamp gives a big thumbs up from the grave! Now does anyone know of a way to hack a cheap printer to be web feed? And I mean web in the 20th century offset printer sense.

      1. I don’t know if you need to hack anything. Many consumer grade printers can print on a roll, and many more have paper size options for sheets up to a meter in lenght for panorama printing.

        Just make 1 meter sheets and tape them end-to-end with a small gap in between to fool the sensors to think there’s a new sheet.

  4. The pictures changing when nobody’s around is kind of creepy. Leave the room, come back, and it’s different. You’d swear you were going insane, especially if it displayed creepypasta when it detected only one person in the room.

    Or since you’re tracking people anyway, how about having the eyes on the paintings follow people?

  5. Every digital frame reminds me of FRAMED , it runs the whole package of creative coding (oF, Cinder, MAX/MSP, Processing, etc). https://frm.fm

    But, the price is enormous, but it is beautiful.
    This is not an ad, I’m not affiliated, it’s just every frame I see mimics it but not 100%.

    1. Hmm.. Not really compared to a nice bit of artwork.
      Actually, a good frame can be pretty expensive itself, an old one would easily fetch more than this.
      But yes, pricey compared to most digital frames.

  6. So I’ve worked with a number of startups, and a few have tried to get this right…so far, none IMHO have succeeded. There’s Electric Objects https://www.electricobjects.com/, Meural http://meural.com/, Framed https://frm.fm/, Depict https://depict.com, Klio http://www.klioart.com/ and probably a few others. I’ve build my own personal “Digital art display” by connecting a nice 1080p IPS monitor with a matte finish to a Raspi and loading web feeds. Throw a wooden frame around it, some decent bevel-cut mat board, and boom, it’s a painting hanging on the wall.

    These systems can really highlight the power of Linux running on an ARM system.

  7. That’s very nice but the fact is until colour e-paper becomes cheap and readily available we won’t have a truly perfect digital picture frame. Oh and he should load this us with some stuff by classy artists like Paul Avril and Cassius Marcellus Coolidge!

  8. wonder if he has dealt with cooling at all? Putting a computer in a small cavity behind a matt seems like a situation you could overheat something, maybe mac doesn’t deal with that tho..

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