By Han Xin, Tang Yixin, People’s Daily
China is currently working to make smart facilities more friendly to the elderly, as a way to bring the charm of the ever-changing digital technology to the gradually expanding aging group.
A woman surnamed Wang in her seventies is quite a binge watcher. However, a recent cataract surgery made TV watching a little bit harder for her. In addition, the complicated user interface of the smart TV also stood in the way.
Thanks to an “elderly mode” which supports voice control on her Mi TV, produced by a Chinese designer and manufacturer of consumer electronics Xiaomi, it has become more convenient for her to control the smart device. Once the TV works under the “elderly mode,” the font size on the screen becomes enlarged and bold, and the pictures would also turn less sharp automatically.
Apart from TVs, smart phones, as the most frequently used mobile terminals by the elderly, are also turning more and more friendly to the aged.
For instance, an AI voice assistant on the mobile phone of a senior citizen surnamed Wang in Anqing, east China’s Anhui province, is making his life much more easier. “Hi Xiaobu, open the WeChat QR code scanner.” As he spoke, the phone automatically turned to the mobile payment page on social app WeChat.
“It took long for me to open this page by tapping on the phone, especially when I was doing grocery shopping every day. Now it’s much more convenient with the voice control,” Wang told People’s Daily.
This AI-based voice control function was specifically tailored for senior users by Chinese phone maker OPPO. As long as the users make voice command to the phone by saying “open the simple mode,” the phone will present everything in a bigger form, from the font to the icons. Besides, the volume of the phone will be turned up, too. This mode offers over 60 convenient functions for the senior users.
“It has solved nearly five million problems frequently encountered by senior users since it was launched, and is activated by over 600,000 users every day,” said Liu Haifeng, President of Data & AI Engineering at OPPO.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) issued a notice in February this year, requesting to expand the supply of smart terminals that are friendly to seniors, and urged relevant parties to solve the difficulties frequently encountered by seniors when they use smart products and enjoy smart services.
Recently, technical standards on senior-friendly mobile terminals and smart TVs were published, making the display, audio control, voice interaction, remote control and emergency response of smart terminals more friendly to senior users.
Seniors often suffer from vision problems, loss of hearing and touch, as well as declining cognitive capability and comprehension, said Zhang Rui, deputy chief engineer of China Telecommunication Technology Labs, explaining that upgrades are mostly made to tackle these problems for seniors when they use smart devices.
Under the same standards, enterprises are increasing the supply of senior-friendly terminals, to make senior users dare and able to control modern devices. It is reported that in the second half of this year, all relevant enterprises will launch senior-friendly products that conform to the standards.
“It is a constant process during which the standards must be upgraded to conform to the development of new technologies and products, based on how the seniors are using the devices,” Zhang said.
The elderly shouldn’t be left behind on the “digital road.” Qiao Yueshan, director of the MIIT’s electronic information department, said that the ministry will keep encouraging enterprises to further enrich the variety of senior-friendly smart terminals, and make different evaluation systems on such terminals to make the job more fruitful.