• Kyodo

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Two online services using technology to allow grandparents to overcome the distance between them and their grandchildren are proving popular in Japan.

One is provided by Mago Channeru (Grandchildren Channel), introduced by Tokyo-based startup Chikaku Inc. in 2016. Using the technology, relatives can watch on their televisions high-quality images and videos uploaded via the company’s application with a simple click of a remote control.

The system’s main draw is that users can simply plug the device into a TV with a single cable, and it does the work of downloading pictures and videos.

People on the receiving end are notified of the arrival of new images by a blinking light, and the sender is also notified once somebody accesses them. For grandparents, it has become routine to watch how their grandchildren are growing every day.

Goro Shintani, 72, and his wife, Yumiko, 68, of Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, said the device’s ease of use makes them feel like their grandchildren are “always near.” One of their daughters lives with her family in the United States, while the other resides in Okinawa.

Chikaku President Kenji Kajiwara was inspired to create the service when he saw the joy of his parents in Hyogo Prefecture upon seeing their distant grandchild via the internet.

“When they see (their grandchildren’s images) on a big screen, it makes them feel as if they are right there in front of them,” said Kajiwara, who formerly worked for a Japanese subsidiary of Apple Inc.

The device, costing ¥19,800, is available online and at department stores in Tokyo. Despite the service’s ¥1,480 per month subscription fee, sales have been impressive, according to the company.

In a similar vein, Photocreate Co., which provides an online portal for schoolchildren’s pictures shot by professional photographers, added a new feature to its service in May that allows distant grandparents to see images uploaded by parents.

The online picture service Snap Snap, introduced by the Tokyo-based company in 2006, has been used by 5,000 schools and kindergartens across Japan. It allows users to peruse and buy pictures of events such as excursions and athletic festivals via the internet so schools do not need to display printed versions.

“We want to improve communication among family members by sharing a record of their growing children,” a Photocreate representative said.

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