AppleTV’s Key To Changing Media Could Be Hidden In Photo Remote

When anyone in the room can toss media up onto the AppleTV, the whole world of TV could change.


Storehouse–the award-winning photo sharing app for iPhone and iPad–is now out for the new, app-enabled Apple TV. Bundled with a new iPhone app called Photo Remote, it allows anyone on your Wi-Fi network to share images and videos from their phone onto your TV.

In brief, that sounds like another boring slide show app. But in practice, it’s more like a Slack channel or meme-laden message board, playing out in real time in your office or living room. Because any piece of media you have stored on your phone, or you shoot right then, can appear instantly on the big screen.

And so you can imagine Storehouse with Photo Remote doing something simple–like projecting the crowdsourced images of someone’s wedding reception, placing photos of the couple cutting the cake on the wall right as they cut it–to something far more weird–like allowing you to troll someone’s vacation slides by tossing your best ugly selfie on the screen.

Both of these possibilities are equally feasible, which is the sort of strange, uncharted territory that happens when the private contents of our phone can suddenly live in a communal space.

“The TV is the only digital screen that’s designed for multiple people to look at at once, so it brings in social in a very different stance than we’re use to with phones, PCs, or iPads, where you show someone your screen for a little while,” explains Mark Kawano, founder of Storehouse. And this update is bound to change our behavior. “Since we’ve been playing with it internally, we’re seeing more photos and videos we hadn’t seen before. It’s one of these things where there hasn’t been the right social thing: you don’t want to text someone some of your dog videos, but when the screen is [just] on, you can start playing around with it.”

Furthermore, whatever you and your friends toss onto that screen can be saved as a Storehouse story. It’ll kick out a URL for you to save for yourself or tweet out to the greater Internet. It’s a fascinating evolution of media sharing. Today, a photo you took on your own might just become something you’d post yourself on Instagram. A photo you took at a party through Storehouse + Photo Remote would become a media installation would come to life at that party. But then, whatever shared thing you’ve built with others in the real world can be fed back online. The media is hopping from private to collaborative to shared, from one screen to a shared screen to many private screens again. Things get, in short, wonderfully murky.


Kawano tells me that his company built Photo Remote as a standalone app, instead of just giving the Storehouse mobile app its own AppleTV powers, because they wanted anyone to be able to jump into the party. “How do you design somebody onboarding when you know there are multiple people in the room? That’s one of the big things a lot of companies and designers are going to have to grapple with when they design for this device,” Kawano says. “You’re using a computer in front of other people. You don’t want to be embarrassed. The bar needs to be that much higher. That’s where Photo Remote started.”

Indeed, Photo Remote has succeeded in that. It doesn’t require any account or login. It’s just a spartan app that will automatically beam selected media to an AppleTV on a shared network, no passcodes of any sort required.

But I can’t help but wonder if Photo Remote–with its simple, encompassing-yet-utilitarian name that sounds straight out of Cupertino–was unbundled because its potential is actually even bigger than Storehouse itself.

If Photo Remote is just an easy way to beam photos and videos to your TV, imagine how other apps could use it, driving Apple TV into that aforementioned murky new world of media. Assuming HBOGo adopted Photo Remote, you could watch the latest Game of Thrones episode, film your reaction right into your iPhone, and then see how everyone else is saying about it. With Photo Remote, TV, not just Apple TV, could become an interactive, social experience.

“It’s something that’s come up,” Kawano says. “Yes a whole lot of use cases come in mind, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves too much [until we see] how the Apple TV is adopted. But certainly, other than wanting to save stories, there are different applications.”

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach