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How to set up Live Albums and recent photo highlights on Google Nest Hub (and other Smart Displays)
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One of the most appealing uses of a Google Nest Hub or other Assistant Smart Display is as a photo album viewer. It plugs in to Google Photos and rotates through any album you want to view, providing you with (hopefully) good memories throughout the day as you pass by when it's idle. But static albums can be boring after a while, that's why you can make some live-updating ones so you never have to manually choose or change anything.
In the tutorial below, I'll explain how you can create dynamic albums that automatically add photos of specific people or pets in your life, then set them up to show on your Google Nest Hub, Nest Hub Max, Lenovo Smart Display, JBL Link View, 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 Select people & pets (previously Automatically add photos of people & pets in the screenshot below). 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 Google Home app, scroll down until you find your Smart Display / Google Nest 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 Edit photo frame (previously Personalize Ambient in the screenshot below). If not, you have to tap the settings cog on the top right, then select Photo frame (previously 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, 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 the photo frame, if one isn't enough.
From the Nest Hub
Google recently added a new way to control your photo frame settings and album selection from the Nest Hub / Smart Display. It definitely beats getting your phone and diving in the Home app to find the setting you want. Instead, you either swipe up from the bottom of the hub to reveal the black strip of quick settings, click the settings cog, then Photo frame. You can also simply say, "OK Google, change photo frame."
This will open the photo frame settings screen right on your display. Tap the Google Photos option and you'll be taken to an album selector where you can pick as many static and live albums as you want. Recent highlights, which we discussed above, and your Favorites are also there, but you can't create a live album on the display itself. That's fine because you probably want more control and options while doing that. Tap Done and you'll be back in the main photo frame settings screen. If you want to disable static albums, show portrait photos in pairs, or change the slideshow's speed, you can do that here.
I've had this feature turned on for over a year, and it's been 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 attended recently, 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.
Over time, we started doing something else too. When a friend or family member pops up in a particularly funny or memorable pic, we take a quick snap of it on the display and send it to them, tell them they just showed up in our kitchen, and start a quick chat. It doesn't sound like much, but the photos are excellent reminders to stop for a second and reconnect with people, even if briefly. You can't manufacture that kind of personal experience and we love it more every day.
The cool 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.
New method added
This post has been updated to include steps for adding and selecting Live Albums straight from your Nest Hub.