- Inventors usually try to come up with things that will
change people's lives. But Robert Barrows is hoping to make an impact after
their death. He is patenting video-equipped tombstones to let cemetery
visitors watch messages from the dead.
- Barrows, of Burlingame, California, has filed a patent
application for a hollow headstone fitted with a flat LCD touch screen
(US 2004/85337). It also houses a computer with a hard disc or microchip
memory that allows the deceased to speak from the grave through a video
- They might just relate their life stories, says Barrows,
or worse: they could confess to lurid indiscretions. "It's history
from the horse's mouth."
- The tombstone would draw its electricity from the cemetery's
lighting system. And to avoid a grave's soundtrack clashing with the one
next door, people can also listen through wireless headphones.
- Plasma screen
- Barrows is not first to come up with an electronically
enhanced tombstone. Scott Mindrum, president of Making Everlasting Memories
in Cincinnati, Ohio - which hosts memorial tributes on the internet - has
a patent on a gravestone that displays a collection of the deceased's photographs,
alongside tributes from their friends.
- If his patent is granted, Barrows hopes that when people
make out their will, they also leave a parting video with their lawyer.
They could also choose how grandiose to make their video monument: a standard
flat-screen TV or perhaps a high-definition plasma screen in a more extravagant
- Gary Collison, professor of American studies at Pennsylvania
State University in Pittsburgh, thinks video tombstones are a natural progression
from outsize monumental stonework.
- "Cemeteries are places where people try to outdo
each other, display their wealth and power. This would certainly be a new
way to do that," he says.
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