WASHINGTON - One of the most rewarding aspects of posting family photos online is the reaction from grandparents who yearn to be connected with their children's children.
The problem is, many grandparents find it challenging to navigate social networks.
But a new social photo frame lets users instantly share photos and videos with less- than-tech-savvy grandparents or other loved ones.
Co-founder Thijs Suijten says he developed the product to make it easier to share his smartphone photos with his in-laws, since he rarely makes hard copies of photos anymore.
"I take a lot of pictures with my smartphone these days and I actually never print them. I found myself bringing a laptop or iPad or whatever to my mother-in-law to show the photos of birthday parties or holidays," says Suijten.
With Famatic, he says, grandparents can put a self-contained frame in their living room and it can be automatically populated with new photos.
"It connects to Wi-Fi, and family members manage the frame through our website," says Suijten.
The product eliminates several steps used in current digital photo frames, which often requires copying photos onto a memory card.
"You don't have to connect your phone to your PC, download the photos and upload them," says Suijten. "You just send the photo right into the living room of your parents."
How photos get from phone to Grandma and Grandpa
"When you activate a Famatic frame, there's a cloud account connected to it," says Suijten. "Family members can go to our website, log in there, and they can connect their Facebook account and Instagram account, and they can specify what they want to share with the frame."
Users can invite other family members to share pictures on the frame.
Eventually, other social media sources, including Flickr and Picasa, will be integrated.
If the person buying the frame doesn't use Facebook or Instagram, photos can be shared using a special Famatic email address or through the company's web application.
The web application allows users to determine whether they want to share all the photos they post online, or just selected pictures, with grandparents.
"When you upload a photo into a particular Facebook album, it will automatically and immediately show up on the frame in the grandparents' living room," says Suijten.
In addition, Instagram hashtags can be used to make sure grandparents are getting the intended photos.
"New photos pop up, and a notification sound plays, so they can see the new photos immediately," says Suijten.
Photos appear from newest to oldest, and grandparents can easily swipe through the images.
"It has a tablet-like touch screen," says Suijten. "They don't need remote control or buttons on the device itself -- it's very intuitive."
When videos are shared, grandparents touch the triangle-shaped start button on the touchscreen, the video plays, and audio is heard through the device's built-in speakers.
The unit can be easily undocked and carried, so it can be viewed from another room or from the couch.
Suijten says grandparents can react to photos by touching icons associated with common responses, including "Fun," "Try Again," "Sad" and "Congratulations."
"We wanted to make it as easy as possible and didn't want people to have to enter text using a keyboard," says Suijten, though future models will offer more personalized responses. "This is something we will definitely add in the future through software upgrades."
What still has to happen
The Kickstarter campaign aims to generate $75,000 over a 42-day period, Suijten says.
Sixteen prototypes are already in use by grandparents and 90 family members are sharing photos, according to the company.
The money will be used to pay for manufacturing a first batch of devices through a Chinese partner, says Suijten. Software and hardware will be tweaked, and needed certifications will be sought.
Suijten says mass production is expected to begin in September. Donors to the Kickstarter effort will receive units in October, and Suijten expects Famatic will be available to the public, at a price of $189, by early 2015.
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