The $29 Digital Picture Frame, from Amazon

Amazon regularly puts the Kindle Fire 7 tablet on sale for $29, a bargain for what you’re getting: a compact tablet with a fast, quad-core processor, 8 GB of built-in storage, expandable to 256 GB and, most importantly for this build, a 1,024 x 600 pixel display.

This tablet, combined with Amazon’s Prime Photos service and companion app, makes an excellent digital picture frame. Minus the frame, of course. That’s where 3D printing comes in, since printing a frame to house the tablet is easy. Here’s the finished product:
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The model files for the picture frame are here on Thingiverse.com. I’ve uploaded both a single .STL (model) file to print the frame as one piece (requires a large format printer) or as four separate pieces, for smaller printers. For the sample shown, I had to print the frame as separate pieces, then super-glue them together. There’s also a separate model file for a small stand.

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I use Amazon’s Prime Photos page to upload photos from my picture collection, and the companion app on my iPhone to automatically upload photos to Amazon’s cloud storage. Uploaded photos then appear in the Photos app on the tablet; choosing “slide show” starts a running presentation of random pictures. No other software is needed for this.

The end result: a $29 digital picture frame, courtesy of Amazon.

A Better 360 Camera (Samsung Gear 360)

Gear-360_Key-3This is Samsung’s newer (2017) version of their Gear 360 camera, an update from the not-very-old 2016 model. The rapid pace of development of these 360 cameras quickly drives down the price of new models.

As I write this, this camera is selling on eBay, from reputable buyers and in new condition, for less than $100 USD. I think that’s amazing given the capabilities and image quality of this device. It captures 15 megapixel still images and 4K video (4,096 px by 2,048 px) at 24 frames-per-second. Keep in mind, however, that the video is mapped over an almost-complete sphere, so 4K video won’t be nearly as sharp as viewed on a smaller area 4K display.

Here’s a sample image; for a better experience, view this page on a tablet so that the image pans as you move your device in a circle.

One issue with this camera at launch was poor support for iOS devices, but that seems to have been addressed with firmware updates and newer versions of the companion iOS app. I’ve had no problems using this camera with both my iPhone SE and recently, the iPhone X.

Finally, a tip: good 360 images and videos benefit from the camera being level to the ground. I use a small, portable tripod that doesn’t have a built-in bubble level. So in the spirit of this blog, I designed a clip-on level that attaches to any tripod around 21mm in diameter, is easily 3D-printed, and uses inexpensive bubble levels sourced from eBay, like this one available for $.99. If you want to print the clamp yourself, here’s a link to the model on Thingiverse.com.

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