|Giant Interactive Photo Array Display|
With the rise of tablets and many of the entry level ones becoming much cheaper I thought it'd be a good idea to revisit this project. Using tablets also lets each display connect to the internet where I can keep the photos all in one place and update them all at once by uploading the photos. I stated to investigate the things I need to put this idea together and one thing led to another giving us the results above (without mount board cover and finished product at the bottom) which I think you'll agree looks awesome! I've decided to call this project Giant Interactive Photo Array Display (Giant IPAD), see what I did there? ;-)
Below are some of the steps that I went through in the hope that if someone is keen enough to want to attempt something similar they will get some tips from this.
Time: October 2012 - September 2013
Cost: Probably cheaper to buy a 60" TV as the wife keeps saying but wouldn't have looked as inconspicuous or as high a resolution!
The viewing angles of these models weren't as good as the iPad (to be expected for the price) but they were better than the cheaper ones that I had so the project is officially a go.
Making The Frame
|Marking out the holes and positions of the tablets, note the post-it's so I know which tablets goes where!|
|Frame put together using angle brackets|
|Filling in the corners as I didn't have a proper mitre saw|
|Frame painted and finished|
Mounting The Tablets
I then used some screws with self adhesive rubber bumpers to push the tablets up against the lip of the handle. The great thing about these handles are that the lip is very thin so when the mount board goes on top it looks flush with the tablets.
|Rubber bumpers stuck to the head of the screws|
|Trial fit of a tablet|
|How the tablets are mounted to the MDF board|
|Tablets all mounted|
|Power supply project box|
|Project boxes connected together with a fan|
|All wired up|
|Power cables are fed through the wall to hide them|
Mount (Mat) Board
|Tracing out the tablets using tracing paper|
|Cutting mount board using a proper cutter|
I needed a way to mount the board to the frame which lets me install and remove it easily as I will probably need to get access to the on/off button of the tablets quite often so I put in screws on the MDF board where the head of the screw comes up level with the tablets and used self-adhesive neodymium coin magnets to stick the mount board to the screw posts. As these magnets are quite strong I only needed 6 magnets to hold up the board, however I found out later after mounting the frame on the wall that the mount board doesn't keep its flat shape well so I had to put in nearly 40 magnets all around the board to keep it all nice and flat.
|Trialling the board with the tablets to make sure the holes are cut in the right place|
|10mm x 1mm N42 strength neodymium self-adhesive magnets|
|Magnets stuck on the mount board ready to be installed on the frame|
|Screw post for the magnet to stick to|
I was looking around the play store to see if there are any good photo frame apps which can display photos from cloud storage (Picasa, facebook, sky drive etc.) so that I only need to upload the photos once and keep it all updated with new photos easily. I also tried to pick ones that will turn the screen on and off at specific times of the day to save electricity and prolong screen life (the displays and backlight on these tablets are pretty low quality so I wasn't sure if they will last long turning on 24/7). However not all of them do this so for some apps I had to use Tasker or Task Bomb to schedule the apps.
Social Frame HD is my favourite app as it has pretty nice transition and also shows the clock and weather forecast. The developer is pretty responsive to feature suggestions as well so I would highly recommend this app. Plus it's pretty cheap and when you buy it you can install to as many devices as you want. 2 small down sides to this app is it's only Android 3.0 and above (so doesn't work with all my cheap tablets) and doesn't do Picasa/Google+ Photos as photo source although the developer has plans to add this.
Floating Image is also a pretty good app with a very impressive floating mode which looks like a bunch of photos has been scattered and then flowing by, looks very impressive when all the tablets are set up in this mode. Embedded is a video showing the frame in this mode. Another good thing about this app is that it works with Android 1.6 and up. The down side is this app doesn't have a timer so needs to be scheduled by Tasker or Task Bomb and it doesn't display the photos in full screen (black bars top and bottom) for Android 2.2, I'm not sure why this is as the developer added the zoomed in function but it only works in Android 4.0.
PhotoFrame Slideshow Daydream is a very comprehensive app which does all that I need (pull photos from the cloud, has very reliable timer and works with Android 2.1 and up) however it's such a shame that the developer pulled it from the Play Store so now I can't buy it to get rid of the ads.
SlideShow Live Wallpaper is another one that I use with my Android 2.2 tablets which lets me display the photos full screen but doesn't connect with cloud storage or allow me to advance to next or previous photos.
I'd like to try Junkyard Jumbotron on this however MIT has pulled public host on this so I haven't had time to set up my own server to see how this works but I think it will look really cool.
As you can see I've tried quite a few apps however if you know of a better one that does what I need then please comment.
Thing that I've learnt:
- It's better to spend more to get better quality tablets than put up with bad viewing angles and unstable firmware.
- Make sure the tablets are square with the edges of the frame unless you're going for the scattered photos look in which case make it obvious that the tablets are not meant to be level.
- It's very important to find the right app, you wouldn't believe how long I've spent fiddling with the tablets to get them turning on and off properly.
- Get a variable voltage power supply as the voltage drop across the cables could be quite big for high current load. This way you could bump up the voltage a little to compensate for the voltage drop.
- Double check position and measurements of all tablets on the tracing paper before transfer to the mount board as you don't want to be cutting the holes in the wrong place!
Update 28 Dec 2013:
Thanks for all the comments and the shares! I've been featured on Hackaday.com, 361 Degrees Podcast (and winning an HTC One in the process as letter of the week!), and BitRebels.com. It's great to see some of the comments and the reaction on the interwebs!
Another app that I've found is Dayframe which includes all the features that I need (scheduler, Google+ Photos, clock, weather etc.) and I think the developer is looking to build some sort of remote control or set up functionality which can synchronise multiple tablets so you should also check them out.