High-Tech Messages
From The Grave

By Anna Gosline
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 message.
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 mausoleum.
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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