Smart Picture Frame

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Posted in TechnologyElectronics

Introduction: Smart Picture Frame

The genesis of this project was to solve three problems:

  1. check the local weather quickly
  2. make sure that the entire family was up to date on any scheduled activities
  3. display a fairly large collection of vacation photos

As it turned out, I had an older Motorola Xoom that we had been using to download and watch movies on long trips. But, the tablet was getting too slow for even that task. However,it was still too good to scrap out.

I decided to re-purpose it as a smart picture frame.

Step 1: Gather Materials

Materials that I used in this project include:

  • An old tablet - to display the schedule, weather, and photos.
    • A Motorola Xoom in my case, but any tablet that is able to run DAKboard would work just as well.
  • Moulding - this is to build the picture frame to hold the tablet.
    • I chose this wood over other options just to make routing and Dremeling easier.
  • Screws - to wrap shock cord around.
    • I used cabinet screws because the large flat head helped to hold the shock cord in place.
  • Shock cord - to hold the table in the picture frame.
    • I just took some from an old pair of shoes, but you can also buy new from Amazon.
  • Paint - to paint the frame.
  • Wood glue and finishing nails to attach the frame pieces.

Step 2: Build Frame

Since there are plenty of good instructables for building picture frames, like this one, I am not going to repeat those steps here. What I will cover here are the modifications that I performed in order to secure the tablet to the frame.

  1. BEFORE you cut your raw material to length (for the sides of the frame), you should use a router (or Dremel if you do not have a router) to remove enough material to allow the tablet to sit (seat) into the frame.
    • I made my channel deep enough to seat the tablet so that it would be flush in the back. This is not a requirement, but was the driving force behind my selection of relatively thick moulding to use as the frame material.
  2. To route the channel, make sure to lay the tablet on a flat surface and measure both the edge thickness and total thickness.
    • For example, with my Xoom, the edge was slightly thinner than the total because the back of the Xoom curves outward (convex).
    • I decided to route the frame material depth to match the edge of the Xoom, meaning that the curved portion would stick out (of the back) slightly. My thinking was that this would give the shock cord more area to "hold onto".
  3. After the wood is prepared, you can go ahead and cut and assemble the frame according to one of the picture frame instructables.
    • When measuring the frame, I set the HxW opening dimensions to display the screen, but hide the plastic bezel. It's hard to see with the Xoom (black on black), but if you look at the Samsung tablet (image provided for reference) you can see that the bezel is white. That part should be hidden by the frame, so the HxW dimensions should be only the screen (darker area of the Samsung photo).

    • Unlike a standard picture frame, you'll probably want some legs to prop up the frame so that you can set it on a table. I just cut two legs at about 22 degrees and attached them to the back of the frame with finishing nails and wood glue.
  4. Test fit the tablet into the frame, with the power cord. If there are any issues with the fit, see the TIPS below for ideas on how to resolve.
    • I suggest putting the cabinet screws in place and lacing the shock cord at this time. This will give you an opportunity to fine tune both the frame and shock cord before you finalize w/ paint.
    • You'll want to make sure that the tablet is fitting well before you complete the final step.

  5. With the frame assembled, go ahead and perform the finishes touches (sanding, paint, etc.)

TIPS:

  • I used a Dremel to clear out some of the frame to give ample clearance for the power cord.
    • I also cleared out a little extra space near the tablet buttons to make sure that they were not activated accidentally by the frame.

Step 3: Prepare Tablet

This is where the real magic happens. For the tablet to serve as a smart picture frame, you will want it to display a picture feed, the local weather, and maybe a family calendar. You will need three applications to make this happen:

  1. Google Photos - Create a dedicated album in Google Photos and add the pictures that you want to be displayed in the background of your smart picture frame.
  2. Google Calendar - If you already use Google for managing your schedule, you can use that directly. In my case, I wanted a dedicated calendar for family activities; within my existing Google account, I just created another calendar and added all of my family members to it so that they can also add to the schedule.
  3. DAKBoard - The free version provides a useful set of base features, but you might consider buying the full version to help support this great application. You can create an account here.
    • To test in your browser, before deploying to your tablet, simply use this URL:

      https://dakboard.com/app

    • See the attached images for sample settings.

With your Google and DAKboard accounts in place, use the app website (above) to configure the settings and link DAKboard to your calendar and selected Google Photos album.

When you are happy with the configuration, download and install the DAKboard Android app onto your tablet and log into your DAKboard account. At this point, the tablet should be showing what you will see in the picture frame when done.

TIP: Photos in Google Photos can exist in multiple albums. For my picture frame, I created a dedicated "DAKboard" album. This way, I know exactly where to add/remove photos whenever I want to change what is shown in the picture frame.

Step 4: Assemble

The last part is the easy part.

  1. Insert the tablet into the picture (lay the frame on a flat surface, face down, to make this easier).
  2. String the shock cord around the cabinet screws to hold the tablet in place.
    • In the pictures, you will notice I have laced the shock cord through two old pulleys scavenged from a broken blind. I did this because the shock cord alone left the tablet in a wobbly state. You may or may not need to improvise something similar.
  3. Attach the power cord to the tablet, and then stand the frame up.
  4. From the front, log into DAKboard, and enjoy.

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