Fun Analog Innovations Help a Tech-Shy Granny Watch Her Grandkids Grow Up

Telecom Giant SoftBank Adapted Digital Comms for an Older User

Published On
Jun 03, 2016

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In Japan, technology is moving at a frighteningly fast pace but many senior citizens in rural areas are unable to keep up. It's a problem for many grandparents whose children and grandchildren now live in the cities and use digital communications. Japanese telecom giant SoftBank, together with agency Hakuhodo and digital marketing agency Tashizan, decided to address this with a project that aims to connect one grandmother's analog machines to the digital technology her family uses.

The company chose to carry out the experiment with a grandmother living in Japan's Tarama Island, where smartphone penetration is low. With her family living in Osaka, her son explains the frustrations of trying to communicate with her -- her phone is often dead, and she doesn't use email or social media.

SoftBank made some amazing adapations to help her see her grandchildren and watch them growing up, even though they are far away. The family's social media posts and photos are incorporated into a printed newspaper format and delivered daily to her mailbox. The grandkids' growth is recorded by an automated wooden pole with a robotic arm that carves their current height into the wood. Smartphone videos are sent to her VHS player via a system called "Cloud VHS," and her old-fashioned dial phone is connected up to the TV so the family can video call without a computer. There are some other delightful innovations such as a smart screen that shows the grandkids' artwork and handwritten messages, and a special light box that shows them playing with shadow puppets. You can find out more about the campaign and the various technologies invovled at the project website.

Despite the overbearing, hyped up music in the project's film, it's a heartwarming idea that also addresses an important social issue -- a little as Korea's KT did recently with its "Life saving TV" aimed at older people.