Monday, October 30, 2006

mobile phones for the elderly

The world's population is getting older. I'm sure there's a good side to it though I can't quite remember one at the moment. One of the downsides of this trend however is that old people usually have problems dealing with technology. Sure, we are going to be the old people in a couple of decades (some sooner, some later) and, at some point in time, there'll be lots of tech-savvy old people using Blackberries. But for now, some companies have tapped on this opportunity and have launched easy-to-use mobile phones. See below some of them:
(From left to right) Austria's EmporiaLife, the Firefly Kid (it's so easy grandparents can use as well), Samsung's Jitterbug, Germany's Vitaphone 1100.
They all have some basic features: large buttons, easy-to-read text, better (i.e., louder) sound and ringing tone, and with the exception of the Firefly, they all have an emergency button for easy access to a medical center.
This one below was launched by a Brazilian company. It's called Blob. It's designed for either children or seniors. Blob's striking feature is that it has no screen at all. It comes with just three direct-dialing buttons, and one emergency call button, which includes a GPS-locator service.
But I think the greatest innovation comes from Japan's NTT DoCoMo. They have developed a bone conduction receiver-microphone called Sound Leaf. It plugs into the mobile's earphone port and it works by transmitting the sound's vibrations via the user's skull, instead of the eardrum (see picture below). This is a much smarter solution than the louder (i.e., better) sound from the other phones as it keeps the conversation private without annoying other people. It also avoids the ludicrous situation of having everybody talking louder and louder on their phones.

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