GrownChildCam: New Treatment For Depression?

Jacob Nelik, the friend of a friend, is a businessman/engineer in Los Angeles whose business, ISS Corporation, makes  high-tech solutions from off-the-shelf components. Their projects include video camera systems for luxury yachts and retail stores, and technical and marketing support to Israel Aerospace Industries for their wiring design software. His mom, who is 85, lives in Israel in an old-age home. She has short-term memory problems. Jacob wrote me:

I try to visit her 3-4 times a year but at this age the feeling of loneliness and emptiness, compounded with the feeling (and fact) that because of distance, I can’t come and visit her whenever she (or I) would like to, brought her to a stage where she felt she didn’t have a reason to live (“living for what?” as she said). I felt that with my knowledge, experience and the internet, I can make it easier for her. So I utilized a TV set she already owned to create a live picture of me in my office. Whenever I am in the office, she can see me (live). It is on 24 hours a day just like a picture but with live image. I felt that this would bring her closer to me and she would feel (on a daily basis) that I am there with her.
I utilized video parts that my company uses. I took an old home camcorder and connected it to one of the parts we use for our video projects, called a video server or video encoder. It takes the Analog video/picture that the camcorder provides, digitizes it, compresses it, and converts it to IP (Internet Protocol). There are many like this in the market; the one I used allows me to control many parameters including picture compression algorithm, so I can maintain a large physical picture (to fill up the TV screen on my mom’s end without being grainy or fuzzy) with high quality, high frame rate, very short delay (under 2 seconds) and very low bandwidth so I can use the cheapest internet service available. On my mom’s end, I used the same type of circuit to perform the reverse function (Taking the IP video stream, decompress it and convert it back to an Analog video to be fed into the TV set to the same connector where a VCR is connected). I am skipping some technical details but the net result is high quality video from end to end (when each end can be located at different place in the world).

What happened?

From the moment the system started operating (about a year ago) I could see tremendous positive effects on my mom. She no longer says “why do I need to live, what for?” I can detect a smile in her face just by listening to her. Just yesterday she told me that she saw me eating ice cream at my desk. She mentioned a new shirt I was wearing. It gives her many new conversational topics. She tells me that she enters the room and starts talking to me as if I am there with her.  She became much more relaxed and as a result, even her blood pressure is better controlled. It fills a void in her life. It affected me positively as well, because I see how much better she is.

9 Replies to “GrownChildCam: New Treatment For Depression?”

  1. Thank you for this great story! This sounds like exactly what I need to deal with the same problem. Where can a mere mortal turn to do the same thing?

  2. what a fantastic idea! I wonder if that would help pets too. Highly social, intelligent birds like parrots (left home alone all day) would probably really dig it, and maybe dogs with separation anxiety, too. Cats wouldn’t care — as a cat owner I’m pretty sure of this 😉 Although I have thought of setting up a cam so I can see what THEY do all day.

  3. I was introduced to picture phones at RIT in 1972. The idea was for deaf students and teachers to use the system. However, it became apparent that seeing each other talk opened a channel of human relationship.
    I hope this becomes packaged so I can use it with my aging parents.

  4. Great story — this will be a commercial product within the next ten years, to the chagrin of many kids and delight of many parents.

  5. Would Jacob be willing to do a step-by-step on this so that some of us with limited resources could consider a DIY project?

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