In the age of social media and endless baby photos clogging up your Facebook feed, Dutch startup Famatic is another attempt at a hardware/software combination to help seniors — or grandparents, specifically — stay connected to family members with an easy way to access content shared. Its solution, a “social” photo frame that can be detached from its stand and used like a tablet, is currently mid-Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise $75,000 in total, with early backers in the U.S. picking up the device for $189.
Why not just buy grandma an iPad, you might say? “I’ve been there,” says co-founder Thijs Suijten, “my mother-in-law was not on social media and was missing out on all the family photos I shared online. I tried getting her on Facebook, gave her an iPad and shared photos with Dropbox, but this didn’t work out, she just wanted something simple.” Thus, the idea for Famatic was born.
Part Internet-connected photo frame — like the 100s that already exist — and part tablet computer, the device runs a highly customised version of Android and has been designed with simplicity in mind.
“So we’ve created a device that’s very easy to use and has no complex settings,” adds Suijten. “Family members manage the device remotely from a website, there they can invite brothers and sisters and connect their Facebook or Instagram account to automatically share photos ánd videos from social media and instantly beam them into their parents living room.”
Rightly or wrongly, the experience seems a tad one-way. Users are able to “comment” on content via simple on-screen buttons that amount to pre-scripted phrases such as “fun”, “sweet” and “congratulations”. That’s no doubt an attempt to remove as much complexity as possible and is certainly a little less restrictive than a simple ‘Like’ button, but doesn’t quite live up to the promise of staying connected, in the true sense of the word.
However, I’m told that video conferencing and other ways of enabling family members to check in with grandparents are part of the device’s potential roadmap.
“We added things like a camera and speakers right away so we can gradually start adding features,” notes Suijten.
All of which brings into focus the questionable longevity of Famatic’s proposition, since one could argue the problem is a generational one that will self-correct as kids who’ve grown up with social media and tablets eventually morph into grandparents.
“I totally agree this is not a product that will last 15 to 20 years,” says Suijten. “What we do know is that the aging population is only getting bigger in the next 10 years, so we’re confident there is a market for Famatic in the coming years. The costs for healthcare continue to increase and more elderly have to stay at home longer. We plan to add features skewed towards keeping families connected.”