Over three years ago, Japanese artist and designer Yugo Nakamura presented a concept that would bring digital art to our walls. Framed was a simple screen with a PC behind it that could display all manner of web content by interfacing with a smartphone. Just two weeks ago, American startup Electric Objects launched its EO1 picture frame, which is very similar to Framed, onto Kickstarter. It's already shot past its $25,000 crowdfunding goal twenty times over— its total currently stands at over $500,000.
Despite bringing Framed to commercial customers and select artists back in 2012, Nakamura's frame has never been widely available. Now, the designer and his business associate William Lai are launching a consumer-focused frame through their company FRM with a Kickstarter campaign. Is there room in the world for two "connected" frames?
Outwardly, "Framed 2.0" and the EO1 are very similar. Both offer a high-resolution display that hides a tiny computer beneath. Both are capable of showcasing static and moving artwork on their displays, and both can be controlled with a smartphone. But they're not carbon copies of one another. While Electric Objects' effort sticks closely to the 2011 Framed concept unveiled by Nakamura, the new Framed adds a few extras that weren't in its original launch three years ago.
FRM wants to help digital artists monetize their creations
In addition to smartphone integration, Framed allows you to control its interface through gesture and voice. These inputs can also be utilized by artists to display more interactive digital forms, and Framed also has speakers where EO1 does not. FRM is also offering a pair of sizes: a 24-inch model at $399, or a 40-inch version priced at $1,500. Both prices represent special prices for Kickstarter early birds, and at the time of writing both limited tiers are still available. The company expects to ship the majority of its frames in early 2015 (although delivery is predicted for later this year for some more-expensive tiers).
The real difference between Framed and the EO1 isn't in the products themselves, but rather what FRM and Electric Objects are trying to achieve through their respective products. Framed is not only a digital picture frame, but also of a new store for digital art. FRM wants to help digital artists monetize their creations by launching the Framed Store with the support of a number of prominent artists. While EO1's makers are also promoting original art with an Artist in Residency program and say there'll be an "app store" of sorts, FRM's efforts are geared towards Framed becoming the Kindle store of digital art.
Chances are the average person hasn't heard of Universal Everything, Mirai Mizue, Aaron Koblin, or any of the collaborators FRM has lined up. Yet all of the above are embedded in the digital art scene, and many have created works that thousands if not millions of people have seen and enjoyed. FRM believes that, if people are going to buy a product specifically to display digital art, they will be willing to purchase original works to display on that frame. It's not a particularly wild premise, but it nonetheless could transform and the digital art community if it succeeds.
"Our mission is to collaboratively push the medium forward."
"We’re focused on helping artists deliver a unique experience to users," FRM co-founder William Lai tells The Verge. "We’re especially excited about how this transforms the community, and how this opens up new possibilities for artists and creators in general."
After just 48 hours, FRM has doubled the $75,000 its Kickstarter campaign asked for. Whether the campaign will equal the massive total of Electric Objects' remains to be seen, but the company is keen to not paint the EO1 as a direct competitor to Framed. "I think the concepts are quite different," says Lai, "Our mission is to collaboratively push the medium forward, and make it accessible to all who want to support it."