One Laptop Per Grannie--OLPG.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on June 20, 2008

I just got back from trips to Florida and Oregon to visit two very old folks—one 93 and one nearing 90. Both are women, one lives in assisted living, the other at home. Both are lonely. At a time when we all talk of engagement, twitter, social media, connection, conversation—all that—we neglect the one community that really needs community. Old folks don’t get much attention in the US, especially from young folks. Yet it is the young folks, with their expertise in building digital communities, who can really help the old folks who need connection.

So I propose we set up a contest to design a OLPG—Old Laptop Per Grannie. It would enable people in their 80s and 90’s to easily connect to their families and friends, plug into communities of interest, play games (virtual mah jong anyone?), and jabber on about the old days as much as 20 and 30-somethings blah blah about their current lives.

This is a challenge in simplicity and ease of use. We need to get students and designers to live with people in their homes or assisted living rooms and really understand their needs, capabilities and limitations. We need touch-screen monitors that easily connect to grandkids’ laptops, movies and music from the 30s and 40s (their youth). We need programs that help with medical care (keeping track of taking those 15 pills a day and the never-ending doctors’ visits).

You get the picture. This isn’t rocket-science. We have all the design and technology available right now. What we lack is the initiative. Nearly two decades ago, Patti Moore donned an old woman’s get-up that made her look and act like an old person. Her research led Smart Design to create the OXO brand of products for Sam Farber, a major visionary. We need that kind of vision today. It will all flow back into how we design and operate the things around us and make them simpler and easier to use.

Reader Comments

Damon

June 20, 2008 4:19 PM

OLPG is a brilliant concept!!! I think this could catch on. The only criticism I can offer is to ask how you determined that a touch screen interface is something that is intuitive for an old person? Do you have data to support that? Why not voice activated or any other interface????

Ben Arent

June 22, 2008 12:06 AM

Hey Bruce!

Nice post, and luckly I have already got to concept stage with such a device. My product is called jive and is a complete product experience for getting connected. It uses exstining online data services, and works on using physical objects to link the digital and the physical worlds.

You can see it at http://jive.benarent.co.uk/ and even my design process that meant I spend a day as an elderly person, and the cultural probes that I sent out to understand my audience.

I would love to know what you think.

bruce nussbaum

June 23, 2008 2:20 PM

Damon,
Great point. Voice activated might be the way to go--except for the fact that we are still waiting for really accurate voice activated software.
We have to do the research for what works for the old folks--or for other demographics.
Bruce

Gong Szeto

June 23, 2008 2:53 PM

bruce, you really ought to look at ben arent's work with the jive solution. it is in pre-commercialization stage and with all your contacts and reach you should put your money where your mouth is and get this thing funded at least to a testing phase - actually practice what you preach. that would be a great BW story.

g

Diana

June 23, 2008 3:36 PM

I think this idea is wonderful!!!! its time someone did something for the elderly...it will give them a new lease on life! You must remember they think slower and get confused some so it has to be simple to operate. Just learning to get info online and news will be good along with connections to family and others. I have health problems that keep me from getting out and around like I used to and I love my internet..and my email...I have a new friend in Australia now and we are so close. Not to mention all the family and friends I can visit with daily! Please follow through with this...this is a gift that will truly keep on giving! I am so proud you are thinking of our elderly.....its way past time! Thank you so very much.

Abhi Hupare

June 23, 2008 3:58 PM

Bruce, great article as always!
A very good concept that you have brough up which can create fresh ground for new ideas to breed. I was really thinking something like this for a long time. I too have a concept regarding this domain area, since my background is Human Factors, I would like to be a volunteer for this project to do research and provide user interface design for developing an OS for this audience.
Ben Arent's work is really impressive and a good starting step towards building this concept into reality.

Count me in for any support that you may need to turn this concept into reality.

ah!

Wayan @ OLPC News

June 23, 2008 7:16 PM

Bruce,

You're not the first with this idea, we kicked around OLPG back in October 2007: http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/community/one_xo_laptop_grandmother.html

Also, I have it on good authority that AARP has been looking into a OLPG idea for many years now.

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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