Make a Live Slideshow

Have you ever wanted to display a slideshow of photographs– but add new images on-the-fly?

There are at least a dozen ways to display a slideshow of photographs on a TV. Smart TVs or media players like a Roku can display images from a media card, connect to a cloud account or social media.

Google Chromecast with Remote
The latest version of the Chromecast includes a remote. But any version will work!

But what if you wanted that slideshow to include new photos added to the album after the slideshow has started? This would be useful during a wedding reception, product launch or retirement party. Partygoers are greeted by photos of your guest of honor as they arrive, then as the evening progresses they see new images of the actual event.

That gets a bit trickier.

TL:DR Using the Chromecast Ambient Mode

One of my favorite apps is Google Photos. It’s one of the most popular photo backup solutions available. From your phone or computer it’s easy to select an album, or a set of photos, or even just choose a person’s face in Google Photos and play a simple slideshow of those pictures. Plug this into a large screen TV and we could call it video wallpaper!

But that slideshow will only display photos that existed when we started the slideshow. If we add photos to that album while the slideshow is playing they won’t be included. We could restart the slideshow– then the newly added photos would appear. But to make our slideshow “live” we’ll need a bit of Google hardware.

What You’ll Need:

• Google Chromecast or Chromecast Ultra or Chromecast with Google TV
• HDMI-capable display (TV, Monitor, etc.)
• Google Home app
• Google Photos app

It’s All About the Google
In case you haven’t guessed this already, you’ll need a Google account. Set that up first if you don’t already have one (if you have a Gmail address you have a Google account). For this example let’s assume you’re using a single mobile device with access to your Google account and the Google Photos and Google Home apps installed. This technique doesn’t require us to “cast” any media. Instead we’re just adjusting the Ambient Mode settings for the Chromecast device. Basically telling it what to display when there’s nothing being played. Think: screensaver. Also note that backup does not need to be enabled in the Google Photos app if that is your preference.

Create an Album
I begin by creating an album in Google Photos. There are numerous options available at this point– but let’s just keep it simple and make a basic album and add a few pictures. Once your album is created and contains a few pictures we can set up the Chromecast device.

Ambient Mode presents a slew of options for what appears on the screen alongside your images.

Chromecast
There are tons of tutorials on setting up a Chromecast, so I won’t go into the nitty gritty of all the various devices and versions available.

Ambient Mode
Once you have the Chromecast set up and working you’ll use the Google Home app to configure the Ambient Mode (right). Open the app and go to devices, then click the gear icon to see settings for the Chromecast. Now tap Ambient Mode and choose the Google Photos option. Here we want to choose the album(s) that contains our slideshow images. If you don’t see that new album we created you might wait a minute, or possibly your mobile device isn’t logged into the same Google account.

Once the album(s) is selected you can choose a few more options– like how long each slide is shown, display the time, weather, etc. Once this change is made you should start seeing the photos from your album being displayed. If you don’t like the duration or format go back to settings and tweak.

Go Live!
Now we’ll make the magic happen! Snap a couple of photos with your phone. Open the Google Photos app, tap Library and tap the album we created earlier. Next tap Add to Album and choose the photos you want to include. Presto! In a few minutes these new photos will start appearing in the slideshow displayed by the Chromecast.

Share the Joy
You can also enlist others to contribute to the slideshow! They must have a Google account and the Google Photos app installed. You simply share the album with them and enable Collaborate. Now they can snap photos on their phone, go to Sharing in the Google Photos app and add them to the shared album. It’s worth mentioning your contributors can be almost anywhere, they do not need to be on the same Wi-Fi network.

Now you’re all set. Start snapping and sharing. Then stand back and wait for your “live updates” to appear on the screen. Eventually someone will notice and exclaim, “Hey, that just happened!

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