I consider myself very lucky for a lot reasons. One of the reasons I feel so lucky is I can hop in my car and drive 13 miles into Boston to see my mom. She’s 71 and not what you’d call a prolific texter or Facebooker. But the woman loves her Skype dates with her sister who lives about 3,000 miles away in Galway, Ireland.
For Keith Kocho, technical glitches plagued his attempts to connect with his dad by Facebook or Skype. So he decided to create a reliable, always-on way to have voice calls with his dad, share pictures and engage in live video chats. It’s called Bloom. Unfortunately, his dad passed away in 2013, but Kocho, the co-founder and CEO at OrbitHCI, has since developed a working prototype of a watch that powers this communication flow with elderly parents.
Here’s how Bloom works: Your mom wears a watch that only tells her what time it is and if she’s received a message from you or another one of their connections. When she walks by a specially created tablet that has the Bloom software on it, a proximity sensor in her watch will alert the tablet to “wake up.” After this, your mom will be able to check out new messages, linger wistfully over older messages and see if there’s anyone around to chat with live, according to the The Wall Street Journal’s Venture Capital Dispatch blog, which says the product’s due to be available next holiday season and cost about $250.
“The plan is to start testing the prototype and then raise significant capital to build the product out,” Kocho told The Wall Street Journal’s blog. “We want to become a trusted communication medium with technology that is ambient in nature. It shouldn’t be Big Brothery or freak people out. It needs to be welcoming and inviting.”
There are solutions to monitor elderly parents remotely, but none really seems to enable two-way communication between elderly parents and their family members.
Today, approximately 41 million Americans are 65 years of age or older, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The U.S. Census projects that number will double to 80 million by the year 2050. As more Americans move far away from their parents to pursue their personal and professional dreams, communications platforms that facilitate easier connections with the elderly — most of whom aren’t sitting in front of a computer, tablet or smartphone all day — could find their way into homes across the country.
Learn more about Bloom by watching the video below:
Top photo courtesy of Bloom’s Vimeo video