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Wundershine ‘smart’ frames are like an instant Polaroid for wall art

Changing wall art can be a hassle, but a Dutch company called Wundershine is aiming to make it an easier chore via a new framing system, combining both analog and digital technologies to create a seamless process.

Wundershine’s concept revolves around a 17 x 7-inch wooden frame – called the Reframe – with a 9 x 9-inch opening, and unlike an LCD digital photo frame that display digital images, Reframe contains an “automatic transport mechanism,” which is basically a mechanical rolling system that lets you feed – from the top – standard-sized, printed photos or artwork. The frame is battery-powered, and it’s as easy to hang on a wall as regular frames. Wundershine says the battery lasts 200 “reframes” before it needs to be recharged.

When it’s time to change out the print, the old print spits out from the bottom when the new one is fed. The prints are made using thermal color printing, which heats special paper to reveal the color molecules that are embedded.

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You can add images to your Wundershine queue, either from your smartphone’s camera roll or services like Instagram, Facebook, and Flickr.

Unfortunately, because it uses special paper and thermal printing, you can’t create your own art using an inkjet printer at home. You will need to order prints from the company by adding digital images into a queue, using Wundershine’s app for iOS or Android (this is where the analog technology meets digital).

The company claims its solution is simple because all prints are standard-sized and it is easy to swap out images at a whim, compared to traditional method of having to size your art and removing the backing, etc. Wundershine says it is a better alternative to LCD picture frames, which it says are small, expensive, cumbersome, and power hungry. It says thermal prints are also cleaner than ones made with ink.

The app supports JPEG, PNG, and GIF files, and while you can upload images of any dimension, the app provides a template for cropping the image into a perfect square. (Since it’s printed artwork, you should upload high-resolution images; the app supports files up to 5MB.) You can also tap into your Instagram, Facebook, and Flickr accounts from the Wundershine app, and a planned store lets you buy premium or free content (you can also create your own art using any third-party app, and export it into the Wundershine app). At launch, Wundershine says the system will be optimized for the smartphone apps, but it plans to offer a Web app as well. Each Reframe comes with a 10-free-prints coupon, and each subsequent print costs $2.

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Besides printing your own photos and artwork, you can buy premium or free content from Wundershine’s store.

Reframe is Wundershine’s affordable system, but it’s also developing a DIY version that puts a thermal printer inside the frame, and letting you print instantly. Called the Makerframe, it is essentially the Reframe but with the printer and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth networking capabilities. From the app queue, you can send a print job from a smartphone, and Makerframe will print the image onto blank paper ($20 for a pack of 10 sheets, $50 for three packs) you feed into it. The battery can handle 50 prints before it needs to be recharged. Wundershine is also working on a remote management feature, allowing you to, say, send a print to relatives’ Makerframe (all they need to do is feed the paper). And because the color molecules are in the paper, it doesn’t require inks. However, the Makerframe is still in development, and Wundershine says it won’t ship until 2016.

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Wundershine consists of two different frames, both using an automated feeding system. Reframe (left) lets you swap out artwork you order from Wundershine, while the Makerframe (right) has a built-in color thermal printer that lets you print instantly.

If you like Wundershine’s instant wall art concept, you can preorder either frame now. Reframe costs $60, and is available in natural, whitewash, and black wood. It will ship in fall 2015. Makerframe costs $180, and is available in the same finishes, but, again, it won’t ship until 2016. The frames also come with colored cardboard boxes that let you archive prints. The preorder prices are for early adopters, and will increase to $86 and $258 at retail, respectively.