POTALK Stanford Longevity Design Challenge


Team Lead: Cindy Tung
University: National Chiao-Tung University (Taiwan)

POTALK is a potted plant with watering system triggered by a microphone, encouraging isolated people to talk with others. Team members from the Biomechanics department and Medical Application Laboratory at the University were encouraged by their adviser, Professor Bing-Shiang Yang, to enter the Challenge. Says Tung, “He often encourages us to think, ‘What do elders need? What do they really want?’”

Inspiration for POTALK
“It began with a debate between two of our team members, Tony and Cindy. One day, Tony mentioned the difficulty he had when chatting with his grandma, since they speak different dialects and have very different backgrounds. Every week when he went home and tried to chat with her, it was very hard to understand each other, to the point where Tony would sometimes give up trying.

“Cindy, however, had a different experience with her own grandma, whom she met only once per year. Like Tony, she had difficulty understanding her at the beginning of their chats. But then the longer and more frequently they chatted, the better she’d understand her grandmother.

“From these conversations and others, the team agreed that the best way to improve communication between generations was to design an object that reminded families not to give up trying.”

Prototyping POTALK
“It took about half a year, and we are now making the third version of POTALK.”

Lessons Learned from designing POTALK
“We think the best design should touch the users’ hearts and make people want to own it, and fit into their existing lifestyle and daily activities. We think that the needs of seniors are actually not so different from the needs of youths: a social life with family or friends, a chance to share their experiences, and mutual consideration for others.”

Future Plans for POTALK
“We will keep improving POTALK, test our prototypes with more users, modify them based on that feedback, and then select a factory to mass produce the final protect. Whether we win the Challenge or not, we’re dedicated to bringing POTALK to the market.”