Google has released a new experimental project called Photowall that turns your TV into a sort of collaborative, interactive digital photo frame.
Photowall is a free app for iOS (meaning, iPhones, iPods Touch, and iPads) and Android devices that lets you make quick edits to photos (cropping, doodling on them, adding text) and then beam them right to your TV, as long as you’ve got a Chromecast plugged in. Chromecast is Google’s $35 dongle that allows you to send streaming video like YouTube from your phone to your TV. It has been slowly gaining steam since its release last summer and now has lots of apps and functionality that it was lacking at launch. Photowall offers further evidence that Chromecast is becoming a viable software platform just like Roku or Apple TV.
Photowall is pretty easy to set up (though for what it’s worth, I could never get my circa-2009 MacBook Pro to play nice): you open the app, sync it with your Chromecast by pressing a single, giant button, then the app kicks you out to the Photowall web page that lets you select or take photos.
You select photos one by one, which is kind of annoying; I don’t see any reason not to let you select multiple photos at once. But! Once you select images, they appear instantly on your TV in multiple sizes, moving around in an informal grid, kind of like a mosaic of photos. Anyone can jump in and throw pictures up on the screen: the upper left corner of your TV will always show the URL for that Photowall web page. Anyone who’s there can pull out his or her phone, go to that URL, and use it the same way you do, so you can collaborate putting photos on your TV. When you’re done selecting images, the app also gives you the option to make a YouTube video that’s kind of a slide show of those images you’ve selected, in case you want to email it or something.
It’s a simple app, but what I find very promising is that Google is doing this kind of thing at all. Chromecast is a promising platform; Google has been adding support bit by bit (it now supports Hulu Plus, Netflix, HBO Go, and Plex, an app that streams downloaded media from your computer to your TV), and the fact that Google is releasing semi-experimental projects shows that Google actually cares about Chromecast. Apple has a similar platform, called AirPlay, which has been around longer, but if Google keeps pushing, and showing developers how easy it can be to make cool little projects like Photowall for the Chromecast, Chromecast could absolutely become a really powerful platform for streaming all kinds of things to your TV–videos, photos, maybe even games.