My mom lives about an hour from us, which isn’t very far away. However, with her busy schedule, there are many times she might as well be in another state. It’s often difficult to schedule a time to get together so she can spend time with her granddaughters between our two schedules. So we’re often relying on phone calls for the kids to say hi to their grandmother and let her know what they’ve been up to.
Phone calls can only go so far, though, and my kids aren’t the best at keeping up conversation on the phone. The conversation usually involves my kids answering questions from relatives with short answers, or launching into a monologue about something they saw, and it’s only a few minutes before one party or the other is done talking. And even using Facetime, they can only get five minutes or so out of making silly faces or showing off their latest drawings.
There are over 70M grandparents in the US, and each year 1.7M people become new grandparents. According to the AARP, over half of grandparents in the U.S. live more than 100 miles from their grandchildren; 43 percent live more than 200 miles away. At the same time, Pew Research Center found that the use of communications and social networking services among seniors is skyrocketing. More than 65 percent of U.S. adults ages 50 to 64 were found to be using social networking services in 2014, up from 41 percent in 2009.
I recently had the chance to try out a new app from Panasonic that I’m really excited about. Their HomeTeam™ app was designed with the intent of connecting loved ones across generations and distance, creating shared memories of activities done together with the help of technology.
Not only can you video chat with relatives, but the app contains a library of shared activities you can do together, in real-time. Using a tablet or computer, now grandparents can read a story or play a game with their grandchildren while they talk to each other, even if they live thousands of miles away.
It’s a fairly easy process. The HomeTeam app will be available for tablets and computers. Once you and a family member have the app installed, you can add each other as contacts. Once you’ve accepted each other as contacts, they will appear in your list of contacts. To call someone, press the Connect button, then select the contact you want to call. A ringing phone sound plays for the other person, letting them know you’re calling.
Once you’re connected, you’re in full video mode. A small box in the upper left corner shows what your camera is recording, while the remainder of the screen is your friend or family member. There’s a menu that can be brought up on the bottom of the screen, letting you mute the call, end the call, or choose from books or games to share together.
The books range for all ages, with something for the smallest child to the most advanced reader. The games include easy-to-learn games like tic-tac-toe, plus more complex games like chess. (Be warned, depending on the skill levels, that could be a LONG call!) When playing games or reading books, the majority of the screen is the game or book, but the two video windows remain open on the left side.
I wish something like this would have been around when my kids were younger. My mom liked reading stories to them before they could read very well, and we could have used this to share a bedtime story once or twice a week. Now that Cordy has learned to play chess, though, this app has widened the number of opponents for her to face off against.
I like that this app gives the kids a shared experience with family and friends, rather than just a call. The books or games give them something to talk about, and they have fun while creating memories together.
The HomeTeam app will be available in the App Store and Google Play on 3/24/15. New users will be able to sample the entire HomeTeam experience, including unlimited access to content and all features free of charge for 30 days. After that, a premium subscription for continued access to unlimited content is available by month ($8.99/mo) and by year ($89.99/yr).
Which feature of HomeTeam™ are you most excited to use? Tell me in the comments for a chance to win a $100 VISA gift card.
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