What is GrannyCam?

GrannyCam is a safe, durable, videophone for kids and their grandparents. Wireless, portable, one-touch, the device is designed to be extremely simple and friendly to operate so seniors and their young grandchildren can video chat anytime.

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GrannyCam wins Editor’s Choice Blue Ribbon at Make Magazine’s Maker Faire New York, Sept. 2013.

The project grew from observing my mother and my 2-year-old son, Hudson, who struggle with the typical tools – smartphones, computers, tablets – available for communicating with one another. For my mom, now in her 70s, the tools currently available are an enormous challenge: too feature-laden, too complex. For my son, who just turned two years old, the tools are also challenging, though for slightly different reasons: too easily broken or disconnected, too expensive to handle unsupervised, too fraught with concerns over privacy.

For my wife and myself, giving grandma and our little boy a way to speak to one another whenever they want is a great way for our family to keep in touch, saves us time, and allows more frequent check-ins with our aging parents.  GrannyCam provides a quick, easy way to share the latest progress in our son’s development and provides an opportunity for increased socialization and improvements in our toddler’s speech.

GrannyCam is currently in a prototypical, mainly off-the-shelf stage, and has gone through two early versions.

Version 0.1
The first prototype was built around a Raspberry Pi, a custom 2.7in. LCD, webcam, WiFi, sound card, and open source VOIP/SIP software. Power supply was AC.

Version 0.2
The current prototype is now built around the Beaglebone Black, and other (relatively) low cost parts, including a 3-inch LCD, webcam, and sound card. Devices communicate with one another over WiFi (dongled) via open source VOIP/SIP software. No cellular connection is planned as part of the design road map. Power supply is currently AC, though the next goal is rechargeable DC. Configuration of the devices is done remotely via command line.

GrannyCam’s external design is intended to be both Grandma-and-toddler friendly, so it’s covered in a soft fabric, crocheted shell. A physical button includes an oversized “arcade-style” button for both initiating and accepting a chat session. This button also flashes to alert an end user that they have an incoming call.

6 thoughts on “What is GrannyCam?

    1. Hi–
      Thanks for your query. I was having little success in getting smooth video + audio playback on the RPi. The Beaglebone Black has a lot more horsepower for running resource hogs like video chat clients. That being said, it’d be great if there was a way to get a solid video chat session on the RPi side, since I like the platform and the community around it.

  1. Hi, it seems to be a great project! Can you share which VOIP/SIP client is being used on the Beaglebone to handle the video sessions, or it is not public? :)
    Good luck with your developments!

    1. Hello Hunor,

      We’ve used several different SIP clients *(PJSIP, Ekiga, Jitsi), but are currently working on a custom solution which we’ll share more about in the next couple of months. Are you building an embedded voice chat device, too? Thanks for your interest. Charles

      1. Hi Charles,

        Thanks for your prompt reply. I’m an electronics engineer from Hungary and I’m interested in real time video streaming from embedded systems like BeagleBone. I have a product idea that needs real time video streaming from an embedded device to a smart device / webpage. Currently we are at the stage of designing early prototypes to test the concept.
        Thank you for your help on the topic, it is great to have your blog around and inspiring to see your projects going on. I really appreciate your work.

        Hunor

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