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Meural: A blank canvas for automated art

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60Unless you are incredibly wealthy, the thought of having your house filled with famous works of art is just that… a thought. Now, a tech start-up from New York is bringing famous artwork to the masses.   Joe Young reports.

There was a time some years ago when the biggest development in consumer technology was the digital photo frame. People lost their minds about having the ability to digitally change their photos in a photo frame. Dozens of suppliers quickly got on board and what started as a ‘premium’ solution quickly bottomed out.

Among end users, the novelty also wore off, but one supplier named Meural has taken the technology in a new direction.

Founded by some entrepreneurial-minded art-circle-fraternising folk from New York, Meural has leveraged the LCD technology from digital photo frames and optimised it for artwork, thus creating the Meural Canvas.

The Meural Canvas is a WiFi-enabled digital frame, which once installed instantly gives the end user access to over 20,000 pieces of well-known artwork as well as the functionality to upload their own images.

Creating a window into famous art galleries and studios from around the world, home owners can now have works by Vincent Van Gogh, Edvard Munch and Banksy on their living room wall for $600. Such fine pieces of historic artistry can be shuffled into a slide show with ‘that incredible photo you took while on vacation in South America’, a piece by that up-and-coming street artist from Brooklyn and Timmy’s third grade art project which he proudly brought home from school last Tuesday.

Flicking from one picture to the next simply requires a swiping motion in front of the gesture-sensing Canvas. Alternatively, the Meural app or website can be used to make display selections.

The designers of the electronic Canvas went to great lengths to provide the best viewing experience comparative to the original pieces of art.

Situated above the Canvas is an ambient light sensor which reads the environment’s light quality and intensity and adjusts the backlight and colour accordingly. All professional artwork is meta-tagged based on what type of artwork it is, whether it is oil on canvas or a photograph for example and the LED screen will adjust gamma-correction, colour correction and backlight to depict the art as close as possible to the original creation. The Canvas is also built with in-plane switching technology to maximise the picture’s viewing angle.

Meural co-founder and chief executive Vladimir Vukicevic says the company works on a flat-fee licensing structure where artists and rights holders are paid a fee for licensing their artwork.

“From my experience I saw a desire both from art makers and art lovers for a more universal, scalable and democratic art platform,” he says.

Vladimir says he is using his experience in working with artists to grow the company’s base of exclusive commissioned artwork and to bring this art to the masses.

Currently, anyone who buys the canvas gains complete access to the Meural gallery but in the future the artwork is likely to become subscription based.

Installation can be as simple as putting the frame on the mantelpiece and connecting it to the local  WiFi network but alternatively it can be integrated in more complex ways.

“Our customers generally leverage the simple French-cleat mechanism on the Meural Canvas or place their Meural on a shelf,” Vladimir says.

The device can be programmed to turn off when the light in the room is switched off and can be calibrated during installation to instruct the device on the natural room light so the canvas will switch off when the ambient light drops below the set level.

Meural is already shipping to Australia and Vladimir says over the next 12-18 months the company will be establishing a local presence.

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