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Stop insulting the elderly with crappy technology

It’s Tuesday. It’s Techradar time…

Sagem’s Cosyphone is aimed at the over-50s. Not only does it have really big buttons and numbers, but it has near field communications technology, too. Need to call somebody? Why not wave a big picture of them in the air, like a simpleton? “It uses cards, which can be customised with a photo or other information and pre-programmed with the number of the doctor’s surgery, or a friend or relative. To make a call, the user simply “waves” their phone over that card to speak to that person or send a text message.”

Remember, this is a phone for the over-50s, a group that includes such drooling basket cases as Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Bill Gates and Chuck Norris – people who continue to do amazing things and who can kick your face off if you look at them funny

10 replies on “Stop insulting the elderly with crappy technology”

You’ve both sat down and thought, “Hmmm! What can we make for the generation that invented the personal computer, the internet and most of the technological innovations we take for granted as they move into their twilight years?”

Except none of those things were invented by a generation, were they? They were invented by some people who were part of a generation the overwhelming majority of whom did did not have the technical expertise to invent such things and many of whom still can’t get their heads around a lot of it. There’s no inconsistency in catering to the huge number of people over the age of 50 who don’t understand the Interweb just because someone else of their age invented it. May as well refer to everyone in their nineties as “the generation who invented the nuclear bomb” — doesn’t mean that it’s ignorantly condescending to assume that nonagenarians don’t know how to create uncontrolled fission reactions.

Need to call somebody? Why not wave a big picture of them in the air, like a simpleton?

That is a fucking brilliant idea. Good user interface design happens when you assume that all your users are simpletons. This is one of the best bits of outside-the-box interface design I’ve seen for ages. Excellent. And if the Iphone did it, that’s what Techradar would say.

In the comments:

> When you’re dazed and confused and have Altzheimers and the local authority won’t lift a finger all you want is one big red button marked CALL HELP.

I think in those circumstances, you don’t need a “stylish” mobile phone. You need a big red CALL HELP button.

Actually, can’t remember who makes it, but there’s a good phone aimed at the elderly that has a big panic button on the back. You program five numbers into it and it calls them all until it gets an answer. Which is superb.

> doesn’t mean that it’s ignorantly condescending to assume that nonagenarians don’t know how to create uncontrolled fission reactions.

Oh, I know. I was just annoyed by the way the article (or the PR that fed it) basically equated over-50 with “unable to work a phone”.

> And if the Iphone did it, that’s what Techradar would say.

It’s not what I’d say. I’d much rather have decent voice control in those circumstances.

> Actually, can’t remember who makes it, but there’s a good phone aimed at the elderly that has a big panic button on the back

That is a good idea, if by “elderly” we’re talking “people who need a bit more looking after”. Can’t imagine my parents being too chuffed at being given one of them :)

In my family we now have a case of Parkinson’s, which is making us all acutely aware of how the buttons on most gadgets are sized to be operated by tiny Japanese children. Older people don’t need to be patronised. They just need bigger buttons.

What annoys me about modern phone buttons is the way they’re flush with each other. Gaps between each button made it so easy to dial without looking.

> Can’t imagine my parents being too chuffed at being given one of them

It did occur to me that there’s a phone accessory and app just waiting to be made for ordinary people in case of muggings, rape attempts, etc. You could have a little Bluetooth panic button that you keep in your pocket or just carry in your hand in particularly dodgy areas. If you press it, it uses your phone’s GPS to grab your location and immediately sends that via text to as many contacts as you want to program into it, along with a helpful message like “Eek!” while also calling 999 and switching to speakerphone. It could even use voice synthesis to speak the GPS location to the 999 operator. Big market for that, I reckon. Though, needless to say, you’d need a phone with GPS that finds a satellite in under the twenty minutes that Nokia seem to think is acceptable.

> It’s not what I’d say. I’d much rather have decent voice control in those circumstances.

Well, I don’t think its case is helped by the way you phrased it backwards:

> Why not wave a big picture of them in the air, like a simpleton?

I’m pretty sure the idea is not that you wave a picture at the phone but that you point the phone at a picture. Not a huge amount of use when you’re out and about, but if you’re at home with a load of pictures of your family on the mantelpiece, pointing the phone at one of them and pressing the call button still sounds like an excellent interface to me.

Remember someone came up with that phone app for Wimbledon last year? If you were actually there, you could point your phone at a court and it would immediately bring up the score on screen. That’s exactly how technology should be.

As for voice control, I was using it a lot, but Nokia’s seems to have got worse for some reason. Grr.

> if you’re at home with a load of pictures of your family on the mantelpiece, pointing the phone at one of them and pressing the call button still sounds like an excellent interface to me.

Maybe. I can see facial recognition and some of the other nearly-there technologies being good for that. Not sure about cosyphone’s approach, though.

> That’s exactly how technology should be.

That’s Augmented Reality, that is. It’s quite ridiculously exciting. Even something as simple as Nearest Tube is pant-poppingly exciting in a “living in the future!” way. Have you seen Layar, or the concept for Recognizr? Very, very cool.

> I was using it a lot, but Nokia’s seems to have got worse for some reason.

I think voice tech is an enormous disappointment irrespective of who makes it. That we have to use keyboards in this day and age is incredible.

Yeah, I’d agree with that. Roll on decent sized touch screens with haptic feedback.

S2, Recognizr is an app that overlays social network data on people. I like the Atlantic’s take on it:
http://business.theatlantic.com/2010/02/meet_recognizr_creepiest_social_media_program_ever.php

Layar is an augmented reality browser. Developers can create their own overlays. It’s got lots of potential.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b64_16K2e08

Google’s getting in on the camera-as-input trend too, with Goggles – camera-driven search.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hhgfz0zPmH4

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