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It may not be the greenest way to communicate with your elders, but a new device called messageQube could go long way in breaking down technological and communication barriers between youngsters and seniors, as well as doctors and ailing patients.

The messageQube is an adorable 4.2-inch cube that acts as a printer and doubles as a read-only cell phone. It comes with its own phone number so that friends, family, doctors, and so forth can send messages to messageQube owners as text messages.

The machine spits out text messages as little printed memos on 3 1/8-inch wide thermal paper. An address book feature identifies the sender and prints their name and phone number with each printed message.

The cube, which retails for $199.95 plus an additional $19.95 per month for service, can also print out pictures and notes sent from companion web and mobile applications.

Creator Rob Sweeney told VentureBeat the device is perfect for seniors 65 and up who don’t use email or send text messages. In fact, the device was inspired by Sweeney’s 83-year-old mother and his aunt, who both now use the cube daily. The device is also intended to help those with health issues, say Parkinson’s disease, receive timely messages from family members and healthcare providers.

My 80-something year-old grandmother, as disconnected as she is from my always-connected state of being (heck, she even got mad at me one Christmas for buying her an iPod), owns a cell phone and does send me text messages on occasion (often signed “-grandma”). The question is, then, how big could this market be and is it one that is, well, dying off?

“Based on the research we’ve done, we believe the aging market represents a potential user base of between 30,000 to 50,000 devices,” Sweeney said.

The consumer market is just the beginning, he said. “It’s when you look at the commercial uses that the real opportunities emerge. This includes uses in health care, government … restaurants, and education where we have started to develop traction both directly with clients and with distribution partners.”

The technology behind the device for not-so-tech-savvy types is actually quite interesting. The company, which has a partnership with Sprint to power wireless communication, built the firmware to communicate via SMS, FTP, and HTTP so that the cube could act as a modem and wireless printer. The end result is a machine that works right out of the box and doesn’t require an internet connection.

messageQube has raised $800,000 in seed funding. The company has a staff of 4 and is headquartered in Parkville, Missouri.


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