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Like Pandora for photos, the Fireside smart frame learns what you like to see

You know those digital picture frames that were sort of popular like five years ago? The ones that everyone thought were a great idea until they actually brought one into their house and realized how gaudy, bright, and inconvenient they are? In theory, they were a great — but in practice? Not so much.

Well digital picture frames are making a bit of a comeback. Designers have taken the idea a step further, and built new versions with better displays, more connectivity, and smarter features. The latest such frame comes from Fireside Inc. — a fledgling SF-based startup whose frame comes with a unique feature: the ability to learn your preferences and display pictures when they’re most relevant to you.

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Billed as “Pandora for photos,” the Fireside frame uses contextual computing and machine learning to automatically curate and organize your family’s digital photo libraries, showing only the content you actually want to see.

For example, let’s say it’s December and your town just got the first snow of the season. Using this information as context, Fireside could scour your photo library and pull up images of ski trips and past holidays. If it’s your anniversary, it might delve into your photo albums to dig up pictures and videos from your wedding day.  On days of no particular significance, it’ll churn through photos that you haven’t seen in a while, instead of just cycling through the same old slideshow over and over again.

Of course, if you ever get tired of what’s on display, you can simply whip out your smartphone and use the accompanying Fireside mobile app to make adjustments. Everything happens wirelessly, so there’s no need to load images onto a USB stick and change them manually like you had to with older digital frames.

After more than two years of development, Fireside Inc. is finally ready bring the frame to production, and has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the necessary funds. Back the project now and you can lock down a Fireside frame for between $340 and $400. For that price, you also get a year of Fireside’s cloud service — but after the first year you’ll need to dish out an extra $99 per year for all the nifty automated curation features.

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Assuming it meets its $100,000 funding goal, Fireside expects to ship the first units to backers as early as June 2015.