One of the best gifts we ever gave to my grandmother was a photo frame. This would have been at least ten years ago, and it dialed out every night to the internet and downloaded any photos that were saved on the server for her. Each of us grand-kids (and nieces, nephews, cousins and more) could upload photos to her account and she would see them automatically on her frame the next day. It was one of the first models of Ceiva and a brand new technology to the world.
She used that frame for a number of years, and each year we would re-gift her by paying the annual subscription fee for the account. Eventually technology advanced and finding a local dial-up number was starting to become a difficult task since everyone was going broadband. We had to eventually retire that model as it no longer made sense to pay for a service AND dial long-distance (this was when we still paid for long distance by the minute). And with computers becoming cheaper and faster, everyone was starting to get their photo fixes on Facebook, and later Instagram.
Fast-forward to today and there’s a new product to just hit the shelves in time for Christmas that warrants a second look at the photo-frame market. Originally called the Instacube and brought to market thanks to a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, the #Cube™ is a digital WiFi-enabled touchscreen photo viewer for Instagram. It takes our experiences with the Ceiva to a whole new level.
The #Cube™ uses your home WiFi network to access your Instagram account and displays your feed either in a tile or sliding fashion. You can also choose to display the photos from just one user (yourself for example, to display your family photos), follow a particular hashtag or view the most popular and trending photos on Instagram.
Our last photo frame from Kodak required us to put everything on a memory card and insert it into the device. The advantage was once it was set up, no additional maintenance was needed. Unless you wanted to see something new. Then you had to remove the card, put it in your computer, transfer over the new photos and then re-insert it into the frame. Needless to say we did this once. We haven’t turned it on in over two years.
But with this #Cube™, there are new photos all day long. It would be rather easy to set up a custom account for a loved one, have it follow certain family members and have just those displayed on the device. The person you give the #Cube™ to wouldn’t have to do a thing or even need to know how to turn on a computer – the photos would just appear there automatically!
Sliding your finger across the edge of a photo allows you to see details about the photo and the ability to “stop following”, etc., if you start seeing content you’d rather not see. It appears that most anything you can do on the Instagram website can also be accomplished via the #Cube™. It even displays Instagram videos with sound! While that is a cool feature, it’s also kind of strange to all of a sudden hear voices coming from the direction of the unit. We haven’t figured out how to prevent it from auto-playing videos so this probably wouldn’t be a good device to display on your desk at work.
Our favorite feature is the heart button on top of the unit. This allows you to quickly ‘like’ or ‘unlike’ a photo as it appears on your screen. Walking by and a cute puppy catches your eye? A quick tap of the button and it is ‘liked’ with your account. Later, once you have built up a library of liked photos, you can choose to only have those displayed.
Our 10-year-old daughter has been asking for her own Instragram account (no idea why) and we’ve hesitated since we know how popular a service it is among high school kids. With this #Cube™ we will be able to monitor both what she is seeing and what she is posting, if we ever relent and let her start uploading. Maybe we’ll wait for the next model – hopefully it will have a ‘delete’ button!
The #Cube™ is a perfect tech gift for the non-techies in your family. Because it displays current content from your Instagram stream, the photos never get old and you won’t find yourself tiring of what’s being displayed. You can find it on Amazon in a couple different colors, or directly from their new website. They also regularly post coupons on their Facebook and Twitter timelines, so be sure to check those out before you buy!