Tip: Transform Your Smart Display with a Live Album

Posted on October 26, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Smart Home with 5 Comments

I really like Google’s Smart Display platform, but a recent functional addition really puts it over the top.

I’ve been meaning to review Lenovo’s Smart Display for months, but incessant travel has gotten in the way. That may be for the best, however: In the past couple of weeks, Google made major changes to its Smart Display software and Google Home mobile app, and the results have transformed our usage of this display.

Like many display-based devices, the Lenovo Smart Display—and other Smart Displays like the recently-released Google Home Hub—offer an ambient mode that appears on-screen when you’re not using the device. The Lenovo’s ambient mode is smart: The screen basically turns off (sans the time, date, and weather) when it’s not in use, but if it senses motion nearby, it will provide a configurable display.

The problem until this past week is that that display wasn’t particularly compelling. You could show a full-screen clock, for example. Or a curated slideshow of artwork.

What I really wanted all along, of course, was to see our own photos. And not just random photos but our best photos. And with the most recent upgrade to the Smart Display software and Google Home mobile app, that functionality has finally arrived.

The key is a Google Photos feature called live albums. Right now it only works with photos of people and pets, which is actually pretty great. (But I expect it to be expanded to places, dates, and events in the future as well.) So instead of manually adding photos to an album, you can automatically add photos of people and/or pets to a live album, using a selection grid of the people it has recognized in your photos.

So I created a new live album that includes everyone in my immediate family, plus the cats and the dog. As you add new photos of these people and animals to Google Photos, they will, of course, be added to the live album as well. (Apparently until the 10,000 photo limit is reached. My Family live album now has 9997 photos in it.)

Once this is done, you open the Google Home app on your phone, select the Smart Display, and then choose Personalize Ambient. Then, choose Google Photos and then your live album.

Voila. Suddenly, your Smart Display will show you the photos you really want to see.

And, for us, this display in the kitchen that we’ve been mostly ignoring has suddenly become a focal point, and a trigger for smiles, memories, and discussion.

 

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Comments (5)

5 responses to “Tip: Transform Your Smart Display with a Live Album”

  1. dcdevito

    I have 4 Google Home devices in my house (2 of them are minis in my kids' bedrooms), plus an Indoor Nest IQ Camera that has Google Assistant built in (not to mention 2 chromecasts and 4 chromecast audios for awesome multi-room audio indoors and outdoors). I really want something like this, as does my wife. My only concern is the attention it may grab visually from my kids. I kind of like how the Home is an audio only device, but keeping a close eye on this as my wife is actually pushing me to get one as she wants it for recipes.

    One question I have - does it show you a visual representation for all searches/queries? Or only ones that have pre-made visual content? The one use case is my wife asking it for a recipe, whereas now the Home will tell her audibly, she'll continue the conversation on her Pixel to see it . If it always showed something on the screen then I'll buy one.

    • RossNWirth

      In reply to dcdevito:

      I picked up a Google Home Hub after they were announced - and yes - in my experience it always shows the visual, first of the snippet response it is reading, but the link is there and you can tap on it (haven't tried accessing via voice) to load the actual underlying website (e.g. recipes from altonbrown.com in my use case)

  2. phytio

    Has anyone in the UK been able to access the Live Album? It sounds great, but I can't seem to find it in Google Photos just yet...

  3. MachineGunJohn

    it be nice if you could also get nixplay type functionality on it, although that would probably be the end of nixplay.

  4. WiseCraig

    That's great... until you take a selfie with your mistress.....

    ;-)

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