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Grandson builds innovative, easy-to-use messaging machine for 96-year-old grandmother

The device helps the senior "be more independent and start conversations with her grandchildren," since she is hard of hearing and can't use phones.

Grandson builds innovative, easy-to-use messaging machine for 96-year-old grandmother
Cover Image Source: Twitter/mrcatacroquer

Not being able to see our loved ones has been one of the hardest things about the pandemic. As this time apart taught many of us the importance of keeping in touch, we've tried every available technological resource to feel closer to each other without compromising on safety. However, this has proved challenging for our older relatives who struggle with technology. Software engineer Manuel Lucio Dallo's grandmother, Felisa Romano Martin, is one of them. Aside from being hard of hearing—which makes regular phone calls and video calls difficult—the 96-year-old also suffers from arthritis and finds it difficult to use a virtual keyboard on a tablet.



While Dallo's parents usually help his Yaya—"granny" in Castilian—make calls to her grandkids, the tech whiz wanted to create something that would help the senior feel more independent. Thus was born the Yayagram, an easy-to-use communicating device that makes sending and receiving voice and text messages over Telegram a physical process like the phone switchboards of yesteryear. Dallo, who's a senior engineer for software firm Plastic SCM, showed off his invention in a now-viral Twitter thread this week where he dived into its working and the building process.



"Hello, world! I want to share with you a device I made, its name is 'Yayagram' a machine that helps our beloved elders to keep communicating with their grandchildren. How? Let me open a thread to give you all the details of this contraption," Dallo tweeted. "First, why Yayagram? Well, 'Yaya' means 'Granny' in Castillean, a warm way to refer to your grandmother. And, I use Telegram to send and receive messages, so merge both words and you have the... #Yayagram! The Yayagram has two features: Send voice messages via Telegram by just pressing a button. Receive Telegram messages and physically print them on thermal paper."





To send a voice message to one of her grandkids, all Yaya needs to do is link an analog jack connector between her name and the person she wants to message, press and hold a button to record audio, and speak into the integrated microphone. The audio message will appear on the recipient's phone like a regular voice note. "And, what happens when you send a text message back to your Granny? Well, the Yayagram prints it on thermal paper so they can touch it and read it, like the old telegrams," Dallo explained. "There are three LEDs to give the Yaya more information. One to show the Yayagram receives power, another one to show it's connected to Telegram, and the last one to show you are recording a voice message."





The inventive grandson went on to reveal that the Yayagram is powered by a Raspberry Pi 4 computer and runs on a Python script for sending and receiving messages. It uses several third-party software libraries to tie everything together and a cheap USP microphone to record audio. The built-in thermal printer is similar to those used in cashier tills. "My Yaya suffers from arthritis so using a virtual keyboard on a tablet is out of her scope," Dallo tweeted.



"My Yaya suffers from hearing problems so using a Phone is usually hard. Moreover, she relies on my parents to take or make a call. Video calls are also not ideal. The Yayagram allows my Yaya to be more independent and start conversations with her grandchildren. My Yaya lives with my parents and I visit her a lot, but because of Covid-19 movement restrictions most of the family can't visit her, I believe this will help to improve communications."



"I chose Telegram over Whatsapp because I don't like Facebook, Telegram is more open and easy to use. Soon I'll publish an Instructables project with all the build details so you can build one. I'll publish the source code on Github as well. Stay tuned," Dallo promised. "If you have any questions I'll be more than happy to assist. At least, I'll try to. My Yaya is Felisa Romano Martin, from Segovia, 96 years old, and she is the best Yaya in the world."


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