Live Albums were one of the most appealing features announced last week for Google Home Hub and other Smart Displays. They let you create a dynamic album from your Google Photos that automatically updates and contains photos of specific people in your life. The ability to make Live Albums rolled out to the Photos app, but it wasn't until yesterday that the albums started working properly in Ambient Mode on Smart Displays.

In the tutorial below, I'll explain how you can set these up to show on your Lenovo Smart Display, JBL Link View, Google Home Hub, or any other upcoming Assistant speaker with a built-in display.

From Google Photos

While you can make Live Albums directly in your Smart Display's settings, the more logical way to do it is to start in the Google Photos app. Go to the Albums tab, then tap to add a new album and select Automatically add photos of people & pets. This will open up a screen with all the recognized faces in your photos. Select the ones to be included in the album and wait. It might take a while for the album to populate.

You can type a name for the album, share it, manually add photos to it, and tap the overflow button for more options. There, you'll be able to modify the selected faces again, if needed.

Keep in mind that Live Albums include all photos of any person/pet selected, no matter how old or who they're with. There's no granular filtering so you may end up with super old pics that you'd rather not remember, or with pics involving other people. If you want to remove those, you will need to wait for the Live Album to populate completely, then manually select the unwanted photos and remove them.

Live Albums also update automatically, so every time you take a new photo of that face, it will be added without you having to lift a finger. That makes them ideal for families, friends, and pets.

Once your Live Album is created, it's ready to be selected to show on your Smart Display.

From the Google Home app

In the new Google Home app, scroll down until you find your Smart Display / Google Home Hub among the different devices and select it. Odds are you will see the image that's now showing up in Ambient Mode and you can tap in the bottom left to Personalize Ambient. If not, you have to tap the settings cog on the top right, then select Ambient Mode.


Choose the Google Photos option and wait for your albums to show up. As you can see in the screenshot below, my "Marcel & Rita (auto)" Live Album that I created in the previous section is available here, so I can simply tick it and be done. All the photos that Google has already added to this album will show up on my Smart Display.

But, you'll also notice two new options here. One is Recent highlights and the other is Select family & friends.

Recent highlights includes some of your most interesting relatively recent photos. You can't see this album in Photos or anywhere else, so you don't have control over it. It's algorithmically-generated so I'd suggest you only pick it if you don't mind people around your house seeing photos you just took.

Select family & friends effectively makes a Live Album directly from the Home app, without you having to go through Photos first. It opens the same face selection page and lets you pick any faces you want. However, you won't see the naming or sharing options here. Once selected, the new album is created and you can choose to show it on your Smart Display. You can make as many albums as you need this way; you're not limited to just one.

By default, any album created this way is named Family & friends. After a bit of time, you will be able to see these in the Google Photos app, so you can edit them there if needed.

Once you've made your selection in Ambient Mode, all you have to do is just look at your Smart Display. It will update to start showing those images you've selected. You can also swipe to see more pics in Ambient Mode, if one isn't enough.

Awwwww factor

I've only had this feature turned on for a day, but I can tell that it's going to be amazing. Both the recent highlights and a live album of me and my husband's photos are selected, so every time we walk into the kitchen where our JBL Link View is, we see a new relevant pic for us. Whether it's an event we just attended, some random photo, or a distant memory, the photos are heartwarming and personal. And we're either smiling when we remember them, or stopping for a second to recall in which circumstances they were taken.

The absolute best part though is that I don't have to change any setting or manually select anything for new photos to show up on the display. They will just appear once Photos recognizes one of us in a pic, or thinks a recent photo is interesting on its own.

I've never had a digital photo frame, but I'm sure these Smart Displays are, already, the best implementation of one yet. For families, friends, pets, and even ego-boosting, they're just awesome.