New England’s Vizit Turns the Digital Photo Frame from a Dumb Display into a Sophisticated Media Hub

The digital photo frame is one of those consumer-electronics categories that seems perpetually poised to take off, but never quite gets airborne. I bought a Ceiva frame for my grandmother back in 2001—it plugged into a phone line and downloaded new pictures from the Ceiva website every night at 3 a.m. Today, things are pretty much the same. The displays of the latest models are brighter and crisper, and most come with memory-card slots instead of phone cords. But there has been surprisingly little innovation around the basic idea of the digital frame. They’re still just passive devices that sit on your desk or bookcase, cycling through the same pictures over and over until someone updates the memory card.

Isabella Products in Concord, MA, is trying to change that. On October 30, it will launch Vizit, which masquerades as a digital photo frame but is actually a sophisticated, two-way photo management device connected to a nationwide cellular data network. The product will have a price tag commensurate with its capabilities—in the $250 to $280 range, plus a monthly subscription fee. I know a lot of early adopters who won’t balk at that price, considering that the Vizit—the brainchild of local venture capitalist and Motorola veteran Matthew Growney—raises the bar for the whole category of digital frames, just as the iPhone did in the mobile world.

The Vizit is attractive, but much more importantly, it’s smart and it’s connected. “The beauty is not so much in the physical design, although our guys have come from places where design matters, like Motorola and Bose and Nike and Facebook,” says Growney. “To us, it’s about the connectedness of the device…it’s about managing the sharing experience.”

On the hardware side, Vizit has an impressively large screen, measuring 10.4 inches diagonally, which is 2.4 inches more than Ceiva’s largest frame. It has HD-quality resolution of 800 pixels by 600 pixels, compared to Ceiva’s 640 by 480.

But it’s the interactivity packed into the screen that really sets the device apart. Trust me, I’ve seen lots of these devices, and the Vizit—which I got to play with last week during a visit to Isabella’s office inside Concord’s historic old Damon Mill building—is unique.

For one thing, it’s a touchscreen device, which means there aren’t any cryptic buttons on the side or the back of the frame: all the controls are right on the display. For another, it’s got an elegant user interface that makes it easy to do things like rotating photos, choosing different slide show transition effects, or selecting which photo album you want to view.

It’s also got the built-in cellular modem, which means it can download photos from the Internet without having to be plugged into a phone line or an Ethernet cable or integrated into a home Wi-Fi network. And the modem doesn’t just grab photos from the network: it can also … Next Page »

Single PageCurrently on Page: 1 2 3

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

Trending on Xconomy