This Startup Wants To Bring Museum Collections To The Walls Of Your House

Electric Objects, a startup that makes picture frame-like computers that can display high-resolution artwork from the internet, launched its Kickstarter campaign Tuesday morning.

Jake Levine, Electric Objects’ CEO and founder, started the company as a side project: Levine couldn’t find a way to display art on his walls the way he wanted to, so he hacked one together himself.

Less than a year after placing prototypes in 100 homes, and with $US1.7 million in funding, Levine and his team have launched a Kickstarter project to bring EO1, the first Electric Objects product, to more walls in more spaces.

The company has a $US25,000 goal. For a $US299 pledge, you’ll receive an EO1, and for $US499 you’ll receive the beta tester four months early. Electric Objects plans to ship products to all its $US299-level Kickstarter backers within nine months.

Here’s how it works: When you order EO1, you receive a 23-inch, high-definition screen with an integrated computer, an Android operating system, and a single cord. It comes with a custom white or black frame. You use the Electric Objects mobile app locations to control what art appears on the screen, but you never interact directly with the screen itself, because it’s not meant to be like a tablet, a phone, or a television.

Jake Levine Electric ObjectsBusiness Insider/Maya KosoffJake Levine, CEO and founder of Electric Objects

The way Levine puts it, Electric Objects is “an exploration of a different kind of computing,” bringing together the high-tech world and the fine art world.

“Right now you use a computer for connectivity or entertainment. It’s interesting to explore something that’s a little more ambient and peripheral, something that doesn’t demand your attention,” he said. “We feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff coming out of our computers. Hopefully this kind of computing is a more peaceful experience.”

You can hang your EO1 on a wall, or you can buy a stand for it. Electric Objects is working with artists and partners like the Museum of the Moving Image and the New York Public Library to create custom collections for the device. Users will be able to peruse the art collections through “an App Store for art,” where artists can sell work either one piece at a time, or on a subscription basis to curate a show.

“The partners we choose to work with — museums, publishers, galleries, universities, libraries — are places that have amazing works of art in their collection but no way to get it out in the world in a meaningful, long-lasting way,” Levine said.

EO1 users can see what their friends are collecting, purchasing, and displaying — and as a result, Levine said, a community and a social network have emerged.

“It’s this vibrant community of people who have experienced what it’s like to have a digital object on their wall for more than 10 seconds,” he said.

The tricky part for Levine and his team is navigating Electric Objects’ audience, which is a mix of early tech adopters and art people.

“There’s some overlap, but generally when you think of fine art and you think of high tech, they’re very far away,” he said. “The good news is that we’re not trying to reach a million people tomorrow; we’re trying to reach the next thousand or ten thousand who occupy this interesting space between software and art. We’re not a tech startup building tech products. We’re an art project.”

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