BigScreenLive is described as “software for people who did not grow up with computers.” It is aimed at senior citizens who are not computer literate. I suspect it also will work well for other adults, both those who are not comfortable with computers and many who have impaired vision. The company's web site states, “Our goal is to make computing effortless and enjoyable.”
The software promises that everyone can “...connect with their family and friends to explore the boundless opportunities of the Internet using the computer and BigScreenLive. Nobody should have to miss out on pictures of their grandson's latest soccer game, or daily updates on their granddaughter's first month in her new school. Stay in touch with those who matter the most, beyond that birthday card and too infrequent phone calls.”
BigScreenLive installs on a Windows XP or Vista system and produces a new, user-friendly environment that hides most of the technical underpinnings of Windows. All information is displayed in large, easy-to-read fonts. A limited number of programs are available: e-mail, photo album software, and a web browser that only visits pre-approved sites. The focus is on e-mail, sharing photographs with family members, online shopping, news, weather, sports, financial information, and other topics that typically interest seniors.
The collection of programs included with BigScreenLive is designed to isolate the user from spam, scams, and questionable web sites. Only those sites on the “approved list” are allowed. For instance, the online shopping appears to be limited to Amazon.com.
BigScreenLive includes an e-mail account that only allows incoming e-mail messages from known individuals. If spam mail or other messages from unknown individuals are sent to the e-mail address, those messages are automatically deleted before the user sees them. The user of BigScreenLive receives mail only from his or her known and pre-approved correspondents.
BigScreenLive also works with touchscreen monitors, trackballs, large letter keyboards, and most other hardware devices that are designed for use by handicapped individuals. The default on-screen fonts are large and can be made even larger for those with vision problems.
The images, large fonts, and simplified menus will work well for those whose vision has dimmed a bit over the years. However, this software is not designed for use by the blind. It assumes that the user can see most things although perhaps has less than 20/20 vision.
I watched the demo of BigScreenLive that is available on the company's web site and was impressed. If you have an elderly friend or relative who has struggled with a computer, BigScreenLive may be the perfect solution.
I doubt if computer-challenged individuals will be able to download and install the BigScreenLive software; some computer-literate individual will need to first do that for the senior citizen. A list of pre-approved e-mail correspondents also needs to be created. However, once installed and configured by a computer-literate individual, the BigScreenLive software should create a computer environment that a senior citizen can use on a daily basis without assistance.
I do think there are several drawbacks to the BigScreenLive software, however. First, it only works on Windows XP or Vista. That surprises me since the Macintosh is a better system for senior citizens. The Mac is a user-friendly system that doesn't expose the user unnecessarily to as many technical details. Then again, perhaps there is a greater need for this sort of software on Windows systems than on Macintosh – simply because of the added complexities of Windows.
Next, the software requires some rather heavy-duty video hardware with a monitor resolution of at least 1280 x 800 pixels. In fact, a resolution of 1280 x 1024 is recommended, and a 17-inch or larger monitor is required. For anyone with vision problems, I'd suggest at least a 19-inch monitor, perhaps even larger. A high-speed internet connection is also required; a dial-up connection will be too slow to be practical.
In theory, the user doesn't even need to own a computer as long as he or she has access to a shared system at a local library or in a senior center, or perhaps even shares a computer with other family members at home. In these cases, you can install the BigScreenLive software on a USB jump drive. All you need to do is to insert the jump drive into a USB port and reboot the computer. However, I am not sure if computer-illiterate individuals will be able to do this.
BigScreenLive is a commercial service that costs as little as $9.95 a month. A one-month free trial is also available, so you can try it out to see if your computer-challenged friend is able to use it or not.
For more information about BigScreenLive, go to the company's web site at http://bigscreenlive.com. I'd suggest you look at the demo that is available on that page.
My thanks to Marcia Bignall for telling me about BigScreenLive.