I’m fascinated by a small sub-genre of electronic device innovation: Those thatÂ aid busy families. Picture the collaboration systems you’d findÂ in the biggest companies, but downsized for organizations more often defined by a picket fence and a two-car garage.
In February I described one such innovation. The SmartShopperÂ used voice recognition to capture, transcribe and list the family shopping list. Clever idea. But with a price tag ofÂ over a hundred bucks, it invites a losing cost/benefit analysis. After all, what’s lost if you forget an item from the store? On the other hand, this week I learned of a device that helps keep appointments and remember events. And at $50 it can conceivably pay for itself the first time it helps avoidÂ a missed doctor’s appointment .
The Jenda, created by Milwaukee’s own Finger-String, was originated to serve as an organizer for those allergic to complicated electronics.
The 10″ x 12″ surface is covered with buttons, but even from the photoÂ they lookÂ easy to read and understand. Recurring events like birthdays are entered once.Â You press a few buttons and speak the event into it. One-time events are similarly straightforward.
I heard an interview this week with one of theÂ people behind the device. Bob Borovsky ofÂ Finger-String said that as he and some friendsÂ were imagining how the Jenda would operate, they realizedÂ that speaking into the machine made the most sense from a simplicity standpoint. It is also the most familiar playback mechanism for their primary market — those who are of retirement age.
As a group, these folks haveÂ beenÂ slow to adopt the latest technologies, but theyÂ have made their peace with the answering machine. And similar to those devices, aÂ flashing light on the Jenda is what alerts users that a message is waiting for them that day.
Borovsky said that he andÂ his business partners areÂ heartened by how people have been making repeat — and multiple — purchases. This is a sign that it has connected with consumers, and perhaps fired their imaginations. It did mine. I have to admit that I thought of a new use for it. (No, dad, you’reÂ safe — IÂ didn’t get you one for Father’s Day!)
Lately I’ve been helping a friend publicize his breathtaking vacation villa in the south of France. He’s just started a Guestbook, where he can have guests leave a written account of their stay right on the site. As a vacationer, I’ve personallyÂ contributed to more traditional paper guestbooks.Â My wife and I have stayed in a rental condo on Sanibel Island with a thick scrapbook half-filled with prior visitors’ memories. It’s a charming grace note. But of course the barrier for my friend’s electronic guestbook is getting people to contribute through a web interface.
But what if they were shown how to record an observation or twoÂ (or record a suggestion for improving the villa’s amenities). And what if theÂ recording device was theÂ easy-to-master Jenda? The same device could allow the villa’s proprietors to give guests timely reminders about when housekeeping will be in, or to alert them to an event in a nearby town.
The guest’s “Guestbook” messages could be transcribed and posted (with guest permission, of course!). OrÂ perhaps they could even remainÂ as voice recordings — endorsements uploaded to the site that can be played using a Flash voice player. This would be cool. And quite easy.
That’s my take on this device. What are your thoughts?