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Kickstarting: A Digital Photo Frame Puts Instagram On Your Mantle

Instacube displays Instagram feeds on a touch screen. Does anyone still need an old-school approach to photo sharing?

A photograph used to be something that sat on your desk or hung on your wall. You picked it up from the printer days or weeks after snapping it, and it memorialized a moment that had long past. The Polaroid instant camera changed the role of photos. It made sharing them an instantaneous action for people in the same room. Apps like Instagram have taken this change further by sharing snapshots instantly to mobile phones anywhere in the world.

But one of the best things about photos—that they can be enjoyed passively—is lost when they’re distributed through a mobile phone. A new product called Instacube aims to bring that passive viewing aspect back.

Instacube is a Wi-Fi-equipped, battery-powered box that displays Instagram feeds on a LCD touch screen. Created by design and incubation studio Design to Matter, it has just three buttons: one for power; one for toggling between personal, friends, and hashtagged Instagram feeds; and one, heart-shaped, for liking photos.

"I love Instagram, I use Instagram, but I look at it about 10 minutes a day … So I don’t really get to experience it," Andrew Butler, the chairman and CEO of Design to Matter, tells Fast Company. "But with Instacube sitting next to my desk, every time I can’t complete a sentence on something I’m writing or one of my projects, I can turn and get this nice visual relief."

Instacube hasn’t just brought digital photos into the physical world. Digital photo frames did that, and nobody would cite them as revolutionary. Rather, it’s a smart cross between the original concept of a photo and its modern incarnation. In addition to being a stand-alone physical object, the photos it displays are real-time, portable, and social. You can set it to show pictures of sunsets or a feed from a loved one who is far away.

"A digital photo frame is nothing but regurgitated static images repeated over and over again," Butler says. "There’s no surprise element to a digital photo frame. The beauty of feeding it with Instagram is that you don’t know what you’re going to see next. "

Startups are lining up to turn your Instagram photos into canvas prints, iphone cases, refrigerator magnets, coasters, phone cozies, or a number of other products (each with a worse name: casetagram, stickygram, instapouch). In doing so, the photos keep their filters but lose the other positive qualities Instagram gives them.

Instacube, however, has retained the best digital qualities of Instagram photos even as it translates them for viewing in the physical world.

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  • REZ1063

    Love Instagram, especuially with grandchildren 800-1200 miles away.  This looks like a good idea but not sure how you buy one (See Gaia_Dempsey) and how much it is.  No problem waiting for delivery if I knew what was being delivered but at this point I am going to look elsewhere.

  • gaia_dempsey

    I bought one and can't wait to try it out when they ship! I think it will be really interesting to play with the controls on my account and find new and interesting hashtags to follow in addition to the really interesting crew whose photos I currently enjoy. Instagram has been a really great way for me to find and hire photographers and designers and I look forward to more great content discovery with Instacube.

  • Joe Nicklo

    Never been a fan of these things. Something is lost with these digital picture frames. They'll never feel the same as a printed photo in a frame.