FRAMED 2.0 Arrives

Well it’s been a long time coming, but it seems Framed 2.0 is finally here!

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I’ve been following this company since their first digital art screen Framed 1.0, which was a hefty 55-inch unit coming in at close to $15,000 AUD. Since then the prospect of a more affordable 2.0 version has been looming.

Digital art screens are something I’ve dreamed of for years – you can even look back to an old post I wrote in anticipation of ‘Google TV’ (something that never really materialised). Well, Framed 2.0 may just be the Google TV I’d always hoped for.

The concept is simple – digital art has emerged as a notable field in recent years, but there’s never really been a way to display it. Enter Framed 2.0.

It’s a nascent time for the digital art screen. And there are a range of competitors entering the market. But there’s something Framed 2.0 promises to do that none of the others do – and that’s run creative coding frameworks – live software applications such as Processing, Cinder, OpenFrameworks, vvvv, and max/msp – right out of the box.

While that’s certainly no mean feat, Framed also offers similar features to competitor devices: gifs, website display, and fullscreen video. But this offer of native runtime software, if they can pull it off, gives Framed 2.0 an edge I think, one that may appeal to some people in particular, namely – software artists.

Like many others, I backed the Framed 2.0 project in a Kickstarter campaign a little over a year ago, and while there’s been sporadic communication from the creators since then, and the delivery dates have been pushed way back for all, I have to say at this point, upon delivery of three units today (the ‘studio pack’ tier), the wait has been well worth it.

The rest of this post functions as something of a visual ‘unboxing’ for other backers that may be interested (spoiler alert!), and as a review of the device and the system that supports it at this early Beta stage. Because ultimately, that’s currently where this offering sits. It’s clear there’s more to come from the Framed team in terms of an official launch, the native remote control app, artists uploads, and of course native software support – but what exists now is solid, clean, and to be quite honest a joy to use. I was blown away.

The packaging is fantastic – everything is well and safely packed. You get a remote, power supply, usb cable for charging the remote, a wall mount, start up guide and of course the device itself.

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Getting the Framed unit out it is immediately apparent how well designed and built it is. The wooden walnut edges look great, the back has a tough modern look, and the screen on the front, well, just think a TV sized-iPhone – its gorgeous. The front panel did have some sticky tape type adhesive holding on a clear plastic film for protection (at least on two of the units), but peeling it off left no observable marks. Surprisingly, the unit is actually a lot thinner than I had imagined – I’ve put an Apple mouse in view for comparison.

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Also included is the power supply, which for my needs, is unfortunately a US spec. That meant a quick trip to the local electronics store where I picked up three US to AUS power adapters, and an extension cord and power board for hooking it all up.

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Then came the moment of truth – powering it on – it’s always a bit scary when dealing with power conversion. Also, I’d read some complaints on the Kickstarter comments that some units had a defective power button. However the first unit powered on from the first press. That said, the second and third units required two presses? Not sure why. Maybe the internals need to do some charging before fully turning on. However once all units where fired up I turned them on and off a few times and all seemed a-ok.

You’re then confronted with a setup screen, which involves creating a user account on the Framed website, and registering the device. This is probably best to do on your smartphone actually, because once you’ve registered your device and setup your Wifi details, you’re given a QR code, which you hold in front of the devices camera (easier to do with your phone).

I had no troubles getting the camera to recognise the QR code, but the network situation was a little more finicky. Granted, my studio is in a university, where user authentication is required. On the Framed site the only options for WiFi settings are a Wifi Network name, and password. But in my case, I needed to input the Wifi name, my username, and password – so that might be something for the Framed team to think about in future software updates.

My fix – I used my iPhone as a hotspot. Connected to 4G, I then connected my iMac to it, and was then also able to setup the 3 Framed devices via the personal hotspot from my iPhone. Pretty incredible. So no Wifi needed really! My iPhone had 4 devices hot spotting from it at once! I had no idea you could do this.

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From there, the experience of getting an artwork on Framed is to be quite honest, amazing. It’s perfect. Trouble free, clean, simple. You just click on your collection in your account and click play on an artwork. Once you do that – if you have multiple frames connected, you can choose which device to play it on, it loads to the device and plays within seconds, with cool Framed animated loading text. I did this all on my iPhone.

On the website currently you have access to three YugoP artworks, and others in the shop range from around $65 – $250 (from the ones I looked at). But for me, as an artist my interest in this unit has been more to show my own artworks, in exhibitions and galleries.

On that note, each unit comes with a remote control and a usb cord for charging each remote. They offer simple controls – a menu where you can reboot the device, or shutdown the unit. You can use the forward and back buttons to skip between artworks you have loaded on the device, and use the volume buttons to control sound (which, going from the beep in one of Yugo’s works, sounded great, and loud). There’s also a USB port in the back of the unit which the remote dongle is plugged into. It also has a laser!

This is really, really great for gallerists, or for people running exhibitions. There’s really nothing else to do, and I can’t imagine another time where running software art has been so easy. You can skip loaded artworks so easily, and when you power on the device, it instantly loads with the last work that was playing. You can also schedule a device reboot, so the artworks refresh and maintain an optimum running speed.

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Artworks all ran smoothly, honestly, it was just smooth as.

The next few pics show all 3 units powered on in my studio. I can see it would be great to run them all as one large display as you can see in the last shots.

In my opinion, despite the lack of communication, the wait looks to have been worth it. There’s still more to see in regards to users loading and viewing their own artworks, but for now you can point to a URL to show work that way. I loaded up my own website and it looked fantastic – no address or bookmark bars in sight – just clean fullscreen web. So the first thing I’ll do tomorrow is upload some fullscreen Processing sketches and see how they perform.

I think the Framed team may be onto a winner here, even with still more to come, including an official launch announcement. It’s certainly in the Beta stage, as far as control software is concerned, and accessibility for artists, but if they can nail it I think they’re onto a very exciting platform – particularly at the 40″ size.

I must say I’m thrilled to have received these units and grateful for the work done so far. Cheers to the Framed team and where it may go in future.

~

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