The Jenda: Another voice-based organizer at home in the kitchen

I’m fascinated by a small sub-genre of electronic device innovation: Those that aid busy families. Picture the collaboration systems you’d find 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 SmartShopper used voice recognition to capture, transcribe and list the family shopping list. Clever idea. But with a price tag of 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 avoid 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 Jenda Lifetime Voice CalendarThe 10″ x 12″ surface is covered with buttons, but even from the photo they look easy to read and understand. Recurring events like birthdays are entered once. 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 the people behind the device. Bob Borovsky of Finger-String said that as he and some friends were imagining how the Jenda would operate, they realized 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 have been slow to adopt the latest technologies, but they have made their peace with the answering machine. And similar to those devices, a flashing light on the Jenda is what alerts users that a message is waiting for them that day.

Borovsky said that he and his business partners are 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’re safe — I 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 personally contributed to more traditional paper guestbooks. 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 two (or record a suggestion for improving the villa’s amenities). And what if the recording device was the 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!). Or perhaps they could even remain 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?

2 Replies to “The Jenda: Another voice-based organizer at home in the kitchen”

  1. I love the jenda-it’s too simple! I don’t have to turn it on and wait, it’s always right there on the fridge and i just push one button to check my messages. This will be a big hit at Xmas! John

  2. Hi, I reckon it is a good idea in principal…we could trial it maybe?

    I guess other applications can be as a home message/management centre – does it have a wifi or online link so you can log/enter remotely by any chance?


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