Help Me Read This – App for Grandma

A few weeks ago in Portland, I worked with the great Mobile Appmaker team. A conversation with them sparked an idea for me as we talked about the apps a family might make for themselves–highly local and personal apps. I had an idea for the elderly, a way to help if they had fading eyesight and a need to read. I’m sharing the idea here, half baked. It illustrates how Appmaker encourages a new range of apps we haven’t seen before.

Eyes on the Phone

The app would have two high-contrast buttons that filled the screen: Talk and Read. Read would turn on the camera and zoom in. My grandmother could point the camera at something they need to read, such as a bill or a birthday card. The app would also call or send a notice to all our family members, waiting for one of them to answer and lend their eyes. Remotely, they would view the image and read it to grandma.

read-this-01 – – read-this-02

Appmaker vs Usual Apps

If this were a traditional app, it would need a settings page to configure the family contacts. In Appmaker land, this app would be made for one grandmother. If our contacts changed or a friend wanted to use the app for their grandmother, the app would be remixed and remade. With Appmaker, apps don’t need millions of users for success. This paradigm shift opens a world of new possibilities. Not all of these features are available today in Appmaker, but this sort of custom app for one person just isn’t feasible with traditional apps at all.

App Experience

I’ve thought of two ways that image sharing could work. One would use live video, with the person on the other end telling grandma, “Hold the camera steady and move it just a little to the right,” until they could read the info back. Alternatively, the camera could snap lots of pictures, send them to the entire family after automatically stitching together a readable composite.

Talk would open a dialer with large initials that would call a family member, or maybe try them each one by one in a random order. Ideally, the app would always be on, replacing the home screen with these two options.

For navigation, instead of relying on small buttons or dexterous gestures, the app would use time and remote cues. If grandma bumps “Talk” when she meant to share something to Read, she can wait a bit and the app will return to the main menu. If she finished reviewing a document, her daughter could press 33 on the other end to turn off the camera to save battery while they chat.

Your Version

Do you think this app should work a little differently? With Appmaker, rather than trying to convince me to include voice prompts or a third button for medical help, you can borrow my work and remake it the way you need it for you, your family, and your community.

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