10 STREAMING MEDIA January/February 2017
behind the screens
To Test a Video Device for Seniors,
Go Where the Seniors Are By Troy Dreier
Focus testing is important, but it’s not al- ways easy.
Companies that create educational toys need
to regularly play-test their creations with toddlers, bringing the children into the office and
watching as they play. Focus groups that talk to
real-world consumers are essential for many
industries. In September, Sentab ( sentab.com),
a London-based company that creates video-calling solutions for seniors, debuted a product
called Sentab TV. Bringing seniors into the office
didn’t provide the natural feedback the company wanted, so it did the next best thing: Dayle
Rodriguez, Sentab’s community and marketing
manager, stayed at a senior home for 5 days. Living with older adults, he found some of his preconceptions about seniors and technology were
completely wrong (while some were fairly accurate). Mostly, he found that messaging matters.
Video chat products are nothing new. Most
people reading this have a computer and phone
next to them that offer video calling. But seniors are sometimes wary of new technology,
and even simple software can seem difficult.
Sentab’s innovation was to integrate video chats
with the television set, a device seniors are
comfortable with. Setup is easy, and on-screen
options overlay with TV programming, so the
controls feel natural.
But was it all simple enough? To find out,
Rodriguez flew from his home in England to
Torrance, Calif., to check in for a week’s stay
at a Brookdale Senior Living facility. Brookdale
runs a chain of senior communities throughout
the country and has an entrepreneur-in-resi-dence program that welcomes inventors.
To help Rodriguez, the staff at Brookdale
chose some residents they thought would be
open to new technology. Rodriguez came armed
with 10 Sentab TV devices and a list of questions:
Do seniors want this? Do they need it? Is it patronizing or condescending, or would it prove
simple and useful, as the company hoped?
“Sentab TV operates on four main devic-
es: smartphones, tablets, PCs/laptops, and, of
course, TV,” Rodriguez says. “Sentab TV allows
all those devices to communicate with each oth-
er. If you were, for example, a senior with a Sent-
ab TV box, the box plugs into a television via an
HDMI port from Sentab. It gives you access to
the overlay system the box can project onto the
TV screen, and you can make and receive video
calls via your TV with a camera that we also pro-
vide to any other device on the Sentab network.
“We developed a free app that people can
download. If you were the senior, you could
call your grandchildren, they could use their
smartphone, their iPhone or the Samsung or
whatever, and they can receive audio or video calls. Sitting behind that is the Sentab network, which is a niche social network aimed at
a smaller community group: friends, family, 30
or so participants in a small community group
for each Sentab TV user.”
If Rodriguez was guilty of anything prior
to his trip, it was thinking all seniors would
have the same lack of familiarity with tech and
would have similar thoughts on the product.
What he found instead were individuals.
For example, he met Ray. Ray is 97 and a
huge Apple fan. Ray has two Macs in his room
on which he edits video. While he enjoyed learning about the device, it wasn’t for him. Ray can
pick up an iPhone and chat whenever he wants.
But he has a devilish sense of humor and enjoyed “seeing a British guy squirm.”
To find out how seniors
felt about Sentab
TV, the company had
its community and
spend a few days in the
Brookdale Senior Living
facility in Torrance, Calif.