Coming Soon: The Virtual Family Dinner

Dennis Faas's picture

Accenture, a technology consulting company, is in the process of developing a system called "The Virtual Family Dinner" that hopes to restore the value and importance of having a shared family meal.

The system hopes to target the elderly, mostly widows and widowers, who reside on their own and live with limited human contact. With The Virtual Family Dinner, families can come together around a virtual table and share a family meal as if they were both in the same room. (Source:

The concept is much more appealing than a standard telephone call. For instance, if an elderly woman in Florida is ready to sit down to a lonely meal, she simply has to push a button and her son in New York would be notified (presumably in a similar manner to a telephone ring or a computerized alarm).

The son would then go to the kitchen where a camera and microphone have been connected. Speakers and a screen, which can be as big as a television monitor or as small as a picture frame, would allow the son to see his mother, who would also be equipped with a similar setup. The two could then enjoy a dinner together. (Source:

If the two participants were to set up their equipment at the head of their respective tables, the cameras would create an image of one continuous table.

The idea to manufacture this system came in response to an overwhelming increase in the number of people who move away from their home because of work or school purposes. These same people rarely find the time to communicate with the ones they leave behind. (Source:

In terms of the elderly, the health benefits that result from this new system far exceed the social benefits. Medical experts claim that eating alongside an image of their family would give an elderly person a sense of belonging, which can combat the loneliness and depression that these people would have generally experienced while eating alone.

The prototype for The Virtual Family Dinner is likely to be released in two years time, and will cost between $500 and $1,000 per household. (Source:

Developers at Accenture are hoping that insurance companies and government agencies would be willing to help pay for the system, in a similar fashion that they would cover the cost of health care workers and programs.

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