Keep in Touch
Judy Kay, Bob Kummerfeld, Amnon Carmel
School of Information Technologies, University of Sydney
Latest news: iPad version to be released imminently by
Keep in Touch Australia.
In the future, we will have many special purpose digital appliances which are embedded
within our environment.
Just as we now have a toaster in our kitchen, even though it is not a general cooking device, so
we will have a range of digital devices which serve specific needs.
The KIT (Keep in Touch) project explores this broad direction in pervasive computing
in relation to one core human need: keeping in touch with our closest family.
The initial vision for KIT was to make it easy for grandparents and their grandchildren
to easily keep in touch with each other, even if the grandparents are beginning to suffer
some cognitive loss and even when the grandchildren are young.
There are no current technologies that work well for this task because small children
are not typically allowed to use the phone without supervision and they cannot use email
because they cannot read and, at the other extreme, elderly people may have difficulties with email. We also wanted to support spontaneity: so, for example, when a small child has an exciting
experience or comes home excited about an achievement at school, we want them to be easily
able to to tell grandma. Equally, busy parents may often think about the grandparent but
fail to find times when they can make phone calls.
The challenges of keeping in touch are exacerbated when there are time zone differences, making it hard to work out times that are convenient to ring and chat.
The Keep-in-Touch system provides a messaging appliance that allows convenient voice messaging between family members.
The touch screen version is intended to be in places like the kitchen, family room or even a
small child's bedroom.
So, for example, a child can send a message to grandma very simply:
they touch grandma's picture and talk.
Once finished the message, they touch "send".
When messages arrive at grandma's house, they look like a small envelope on the child's picture and grandma can simply touch this to hear the message.
In collaborative research with colleagues at the University of Melbourne, KIT was trialled
in homes over several weeks.
Kit is now being commercialised by
Keep in Touch Australia, a spin-off company
from the Smart Internet Technology Cooperative Research Centre.
In 2008, the company won a COMET grant which enabled it to take KIT to the next stage
and to place KIT systems into the homes of elderly
people and their families so that they can more easily maintain contact.
In 2010, KIT was ported to the iPad.
A. Carmel, J. Kay, and B. Kummerfeld. Kit: ambient appliance for families to keep in touch. In CHI 2012 Workshop: Technology for Families, 2012. [View Details]
G. Langdale, J. Kay, and B. Kummerfeld. Using an intergenerational communications system as a 'light-weight' technology probe. In CHI '06: CHI '06 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pages 1001-1006, New York, NY, USA, 2006. ACM Press. [View Details]