Great Gift for Grandparents

Okay, I think that this finally is my last CES 2012 post, at least for now. Today, I want to tell you about a product that won an an International CES Innovations 2012 Design and Engineering Award: TelyHD.

The TelyHD turns any HDTV into a Skype video conferencing display.

This is essentially a dedicated network media player that only has one application: Skype. It runs on Android, and connects to any display with an HDMI port. It accesses the Internet through your home network and high-speed broadband connection. (The higher your broadband speed, the better image you’ll get.) It has a number of features that set it apart from your run of the mill webcam, aside from the fact that you don’t need to hook it up to a computer.

It will alert you of an incoming call when you’re watching TV, so that you can switch to its input. It has a four-microphone array that should provide “beam steering” and better noise cancellation than a regular webcam, which is important in a living room setting. It also has a handy physical shutter that you can pull down over the lens so that you are sure that nobody can take a peek at you when you don’t want.

I haven’t tested the product, so I can’t speak to its performance, but it makes a lot of sense. Several of the major manufacturers have built Skype support into some of their Smart TVs, but I feel that they’ve missed a trick by not marketing this feature heavily to seniors. The TelyHD looks to be simple enough to operate (and fairly easy set up initially) that you don’t need to be very technical to make it work. I believe that one of the biggest undermarketed attractions for Skype is that it is a great way for grandparents to visit with grandchildren (and their parents). I don’t know if you’ve tried to hold a telephone conversation with a two- or three-year old lately, but it’s not a very productive medium for communication at that stage. With a video call, however, you get to see them playing even if their focus is not on your conversation. On a big screen TV, it can almost be like they’re in the room with you.

I think that the TelyHD is on the right track, making this a component feature rather than built-in. (The sets that have Skype “built-in” still require that you purchase extra-cost options to make it work.) That way you can move it to another set without having to buy it again. And I suspect that if they were to make a concerted effort to market the product to seniors, they could see a lot of them.