Although we’ve all probably given one to our parents for Christmas, conventional wisdom is that digital photo frames kind of suck. They’ve got bad interfaces, tiny screens, and need to be plugged in all the time. No wonder, then, that they’ve never really caught on, especially amongst art lovers.
Acanvas wants to change all that. This skunkworks project within LG turned Silicon Valley startup wants to make digital frames cool, and make it easier for people to bring fine art from their homes. But forget all that for a second, because Acanvas’s coolest innovation isn’t actually the frame (although that’s cool too). It’s the crazy autonomous power cord that charges itself like a yo-yo, without having to be plugged into the wall all the time.
Unless you’re willing to rip open your wall to hide it, wall-mounted displays always fail what Acanvas co-founder Dan Lee calls “the wife test.” In other words, there’s always an unsightly power cord snaking out of the bottom of the device, making the accompanying display (no matter how tastefully designed) look more like clunky gadget than elegant decor. Just like TVs, digital frames are, in essence, wall-mounted displays, so the question of what to do about the cord was the first major challenge Lee and his colleagues tackled when designing the Acanvas.
The system they came up with is just awesomely fun and clever. A 23-inch long portrait HD display, the Acanvas can be hung on a wall with a single nail, just like a regular painting. It will run for about six hours at a time without being plugged in, thanks to an enclosed 6,350 mAH battery pack. But where things get interesting is when the juice runs low–and the Acanvas silently drops a charging cable towards the floor. This charger magnetically holsters itself in an unobtrusive cradle near the baseboard, which is tethered to a nearby wall outlet through a nondescript extension cord, and starts juicing. When it’s sufficiently charged, the Acanvas retracts the cable automatically, hiding it within its casing until the next time it needs to juice itself up.
In action, the Acanvas’s charger is so fun to watch, it’s almost like wall art into itself. It’s easy to forget, in fact, that the cool charger is attached to a pretty cool product, which is more thoughtfully designed than most digital frames. You can actually install your own frame around the Acanvas–for example, by adding a matte, or stripping it away–just by snapping it on. In addition to being able to display its owners’ photos, Acanvas also has access to a million works of photography and fine art, thanks to a partnership with Fine Art America. These images are easy to push to the frame through the Acanvas smartphone app, and have even come as curated collections, so your Acanvas can always cycle through nature photography, or 19th Century Spanish Eclecticism. Three Acanvases can even be linked together in a triptych configuration to display large landscape prints.
At the end of the day, there’s a bit of a disconnect between most art lovers (who put value upon the physicality of fine art) and the sort of people who buy digital frames. Acanvas’s clever design may be enough to overcome that, even if there’s still a big difference between hanging a print of your favorite painting on the wall and just seeing it on a screen. But even if Acanvas fails, that crazy yo-yo charger will be a killer conversation starter for years to come. You can preorder one on Kickstarter today, starting at just $299.