Animated Picture Frame Needs Charging Once Per Month

[Kyle Stewart-Frantz] took one look at a black and white photo of a mountain stream, and decided it was way too boring. How much cooler would it be if the water was moving! Like any good hacker worth his weight in 2N2222s, [Kyle] set out to make his idea a reality. After discovering some pricey options, he found a Kindle Paperwhite with a display that had decent resolution and 16 levels of grey. But would 16 levels be sufficient to produce an animation that’s pleasing to the eye?

After stumbling upon a community dedicated to hacking Kindles, [Kyle] got to work. Using a custom Amazon command called eips, he was able to access the display’s memory location and paint images to it. The next trick was to write a script that called the command multiple times to produce a GIF-like animation effect.  This… didn’t work so well. He then found some code from [GeekMaster] (thanks for the tip!) that ran a specialized video player on the Kindle that used something called ordered dithering. After a few more tweaks, he got everything working and the end result looks like something straight out of the world of Harry Potter.

The animated picture frame can run for three to four weeks between charges. This is a hack that would make a great gift and look nice in your office. If you make one, be sure to put the skull and wrenches on it first and let us know!

28 thoughts on “Animated Picture Frame Needs Charging Once Per Month

      1. The shot in the video has no discernible slope so how could you tell which was normal? R->L or L->R?

        There is speed too, you can play with that in a useful range and not have it look unnatural.

        The idea is to have something very hard for other people to notice but which is meaningful to you. Such as a voice lie detector, if the stream in the picture on your desk flows one way the person on the other side of your desk is telling a lie. To them it just looks as if you glanced at the nice photo on your desk.

    1. I wonder if etching the white card enough to let diffuse light on to a solar panel could keep it trickle charged, without filtering the needed wavelengths or making the panel visible.

      1. In the picture framing biz the “white card” is called a matte. If you look closely you’ll see that it’s beveled; it’s quite thick, which is normal as it provides “depth” to the framing ensemble. Mattes are offered in many different colors and styles but one thing they all have in common is that they are completely opaque, to block the details of other framing tricks they are there to hide. Getting a matte which would work for its normal purpose yet pass enough light to charge the frame would probably be harder than the original Paperwhite hack.

        On the other hand a creative person could probably find a way to cut openings in the matte for regular solar cells in a way that complements the photo display. Perhaps with translucent white filters to obscure the cells’ intrinsic apparent color. I know an artist who does framing I’ll probably discuss this with soon.

        1. I was thinking if the matte was milled from behind to a minimal thickness, by trial and error, to completly hide the panel, like a 2 way mirror. It has a 5.2Wh battery so 0.0072watt continuous to keep charged (ignoring loss, night time etc) but this 0.2W panel could do it with the usual electronics trickery that clever people round here do.

          1. Just get an ordinary matte, cut holes for the solar panels then lay a piece of transuicent plastic over the top with the appropriately sized hole cut to match the hole on the matte for the picture.
            A piece of plastic diffuser from an old LDC monitor or TV would probably do perfectly. Designed to diffuse and evenly pass light.

          2. A solar cell has to be dark to absorb light. So even behind a diffusor it will be darker – it can not appear white.
            So a more viable approach would be to hide it in the frame: Use amorphous solar cells, they are better in low indoor lighting and have a more uniform dark glass appearance. If you don’t need the whole surface of the frame then get some dark glass or acrylic to extent it and cover this with a mat translucent foil. In this way you should get a quite uniform dark appearance of the frame.

          3. The matte is a layer of basically chipboard with a thin layer of paper on top. Someone with a steady hand might be able to remove the chipboard from a section and leave the paper, but I doubt it would work well.
            I suspect that the paper layer would not pass much light (since you can buy black core board with white paper, the paper must be fairly opaque) or, if you found board with thinner paper, it would show the cell.
            Still, we won’t know for sure until someone tries!

        2. What if you just put the solar cells on the back of the frame, then have the picture sit under a lamp or on a table that has a window near it… even though it’s angled down the tiny amount of current needed should be attainable.

  1. In a black frame, it would be much easier to install solar cells along the top edge of the frame, or even on the back. Mattes are generally paperboard at the very least, so getting them thin enough to transmit any light would be nearly impossible, especially considering that the spectral response of the amorphous solar cells that are useful indoors is mostly in the visible range.

  2. I have found a screen part for Kindle Paperwhite. It is 1 ED060XC3(LF)C1-00.
    Does any know what type interface it is working? Maybe it would be easier to just use this screen with an FPGA or any other uC?

  3. Start with a B&W picture of a dead relative. Then photoshop a couple versions to create an animation where they blink their eyes. Include a motion detector and then make the image blink whenever someone walks by. Boom, instant heart attack.

  4. The Mobileread forums are great if you are into Kindle (or, really, any ebook) hacking. Smart minds over there who have been at it for some time and know their way around the software.

    There’s also an eBook library section, where members post high quality versions of files. Much better than Gutenberg conversions… many are lovingly edited by actual ebook publishers and illustrated, with proper fonts and layout, etc.

  5. The battery life sounded unbelievably good for animation, and indeed it is an estimate for a case where there would be motion sensor added to activate the animation. Per my experience, eink displays take 100-200mA (@3.3V) when animating at ~7 FPS.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. I use a Paperwhite for reading and the battery it 3-4 weeks tops.

      With that said, I am thinking of doing something similar and I’m thinking of stashing a bunch of cells behind the frame to improve battery life.

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