Keep In Touch With Grandma, With This Lo-Tech Interface

We have so many options through which to communicate with our friends and relatives during the lockdown, thanks to our smartphones and the number of apps that serve all possible needs. Impressive as they are though, a smartphone is not suitable for everyone. In particular older people can find them less easy to use, and the consequent loss of communication ability is addressed by [Manu] with the Yayagram, described in a thread of Spanish-language Tweets and later the thread was translated into English.

On the top of the box is a microphone with push-to-talk switch, a small thermal printer, and a set of 1/4″ jack sockets with associated jump lead. Each socket corresponds to a relative, and an audio message to that relative can be posted via Telegram simply by speaking into the microphone with the button pressed. Replies are then printed through the thermal printer. Meanwhile behind the scenes is a Raspberry Pi holding it all together.

We like the simplicity of the interface, and who wouldn’t want to ensure that their older relatives were able to keep in touch! But while the jump lead is a neat touch, we hope it’s not too difficult for extremely frail hands. It’s certainly not the first accessibility project for older people that we’ve seen.

17 thoughts on “Keep In Touch With Grandma, With This Lo-Tech Interface

  1. I´m afraid the jack socket switching isn´t grandma-friendly unless she used to work as switchboard phone operator.
    I´d go with fat arcade button with a portrait photo on each.

    and in 40 years when todays generation will be old, the young people will make gimmicks of smartphones with same UI than Whatsapp.

    1. What if grandma wan’ts to patch members of the family together? Maybe she thinks Brenda needs to make up with Keith and wants to play godfather. I’m imagining patching them through, both phones ringing and some kind of “No, you called me!” scenario.

    2. If your grandmother is too old to understand headphone jacks then she hit the late adulthood “I don’t want to learn new things” phase (stereotypically 50 years old or so) before 1950.

      In that case, congrats on her longevity!

  2. The thread’s worth reading just for the stunning photo of the Alcázar de Segovia. Wow… my house’s castellations & turrets need a major upgrade.

    *If* as I like to imagine, his grandmother lives there then surely a magic mirror would be more appropriate?

    I love the physical UI, not sure how many people in their 90s would find those leads easy to manipulate and I hope my eyesight is good enough to read that printer in X decades time, but if it works for her excellent.

  3. ” Impressive as they are though, a smartphone is not suitable for everyone. In particular older people can find them less easy to use”

    Going through this with someone. Hardest part is letting go of the old and familiar. The rest is setting up the new to be as senior friendly as possible (unfortunately smartphones don’t have a “senior” mode). Getting them use to the taps and gestures we’ve gotten use to.

    1. There are phones intended for seniors. They fall very much short of the mark, especially for people with poor or no vision. You really can’t glue braille dots to the screen. People do sell braille screen protectors. They don’t work. A German company did make a somewhat decent phone with no display. Everything was done with voice prompts. No longer made and it wasn’t reliable. Also not compatible with 3G, 4G, etc. The market isn’t huge but it’s shameful that we don’t have better (and affordable) products for elderly and disabled people. When products do exist, the quantities are low and prices are often unreasonable.

    2. Are the smartphones of today more usable than the mobile phones of 15 years ago? Sadly all of my grandparents have now passed away, but technology was not the forte of any of them. We (descendants) gave both grandmothers pretty simple mobile phones, but neither got much use. I suspect there was an aspect of thinking it would be expensive and being good, old, country folk not wanting to let anything go slightly waste.

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