Japan’s Mago Channel helps grandparents stay connected with far-off grandkids

Japan’s Mago Channel helps grandparents stay connected with far-off grandkids

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See the original story in Japanese.

These days, many people have smartphones on them all the time and it seems that the distance between people has been lessened. However, the “distance” (gap) in contrast between the smartphone-savvy generations and those who aren’t has grown. Mago Channel from Tokyo-based startup called Chikaku forms a link from the younger to senior generations.

Check out grandchildren on TV from home

Mago Channel directly broadcasts videos and photos to TVs that grandparents usually watch. One photographs / videos oneself on a smartphone on the specialized app for broadcast to one’s home TV. Since the communication lines are built in, one needs not have the Internet or a wireless LAN to use it. Grandparents can watch their grandchildren just like when watching a program/photos on a TV channel.

Mago Channel has only three steps needed for setup. Plug in the terminal’s power cable, connect the HDMI cable to the TV and turn it on. That’s it, then Mago Channel will be added to the home TV lineup for selection, accessible using a normal TV remote control.

Chikaku CEO Kenji Kajiwara explained:

It doesn’t force you to be aware of things like the Internet but you just have to connect the terminal then you get a channel added. What we aimed for was to offer an experience that can be used easily by the grandparents generation which may not be familiar with digital products. Elderly people can enjoy it just like watching TV, but it acts as a channel for watching grandchildren like a channel added to conventional channels.

Technology cozies up to grandparents

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The Chikaku team – L to R: Kenta Kuwata, Kenji Kajiwara, Michi Sato

Those parents and grandparents who live far away are not using their smartphones fully, so it is often not easy to maintain contact. Unfortunately, one can make contact once every several months. Although it is said that the world has become convenient because of the technological revolution, there’s a gap being created with those who can’t keep up with technology.

Kajiwara was born and raised on Awaji Island and is the last of three generations spanning from his grandparents, to his parents to him. His grandparents have passed away already, but he is in a situation where he is located in Tokyo with two children and his parents are still on the island. His family can only go home once or twice a year. So, he tried the existing services such as digital photo frames to try getting his grandchildren closer to the grandparents, but none of them were easy for use by the grandparents.

Kajiwara continued:

I was made to realize that there’s no product or service for the elderly like my parents’ generation in this IT world. IT products are made with the expectation of people being able to use smartphones and PC’s, so there are few ways for users with limited IT knowledge to “come closer.” I thought about what it would like if really easy-to-use items from my grandparent’s viewpoint were made available and that led to this channel being born.

Close communication that ‘brightens up home’

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Kajiwara continues by noting that since they began developing the Mago Channel service, the Chikaku team has heard a lot about existing services like digital photo frame. There are quite a few stories where people gave digital photo frames as a gift, but they stopped using them after a while. The reason was that one couldn’t tell if the products are in use, one can’t know if the recipients are really checking the photos and there is no instant feedback coming through, so one gets less motivated to send photos.

On the other hand, the Mago Channel icon is designed to look like a house. When photos and videos taken by the specialized app come through, a ‘house-shaped’ window lights up. It’s as if it tells one that the grandchildren have returned home to the distant grandparents’ place. Also, when grandparents start watching the Mago Channel, the app sends a push notification that they have started watching the Mago Channel to the “broadcaster” (grandchildren’s guardians).

Kajiwara added:

We focused on the communication between families and grandparents who are apart so they can feel closer to each other naturally in their daily life. “Oh, they are watching, well let’s send more. Let’s phone (call) them because they are watching now.” Things like that, we worked on the communication mode to promote increased contact between families who live apart.

In a recent campaign on the Makuake crowdfunding site, the Chikaku team has raised almost six times the initial goal of 1 million yen (about $8,100).

Mago Channel’s pre-order is no longer available but early-bird bookings were priced at a special 21,260 yen (about $175) for the initial year; 12,800 yen for the Mago Channel inbox and 980 yen ($8) for the regular monthly fee are free to use during the first three months.

Chikaku said that they will go into mass production of setup boxes in response to foreseen demands and service needs highlighted by trial marketing.

Translated by Chieko Frost via Mother First
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy and Masaru Ikeda