Business & Technology 4/26/99
The death business is going interactive.
BY ELISE ACKERMAN
Grandpa may have moved on to the hereafter, but you no longer need a medium or a Ouija board to communicate with him. Graveyards are going interactive. Forever Enterprises, based in St. Louis, is outfitting cemeteries with "digital biographies" of the dead. So far the company has installed small video monitors, housed in somber, dark wood kiosks, among the graves of seven cemeteries across the nation. By touching the screen, mourners can view photographs or videos of the dearly departed and listen to their voices as well as testimonials from friends and family members. "My daughter has been introduced to the great-grandmother she never met," says Brent Cassity, the company's chief executive officer.
Forget about silent tombstones, too. In the future, Cassity predicts, video monitors will be affixed to the grave markers themselves. "If you could have that memorial talk, you'd want it to," he asserts. Leif Technologies, an Ohio monument maker, already advertises granite grave markers, cremation urns, and bronze plaques that come equipped with personal memorials, which they call "View*logies" (rhymes with eulogies). View*logies cost between $1,995 and $5,595 and can hold up to the equivalent of 250 pages of pictures and text. An added benefit for mourners who live far away: the View*logies can be downloaded to a laptop computer.
Forever Enterprises also accommodates stay-at-home mourners. In a few weeks, Cassity says, the company's 10,000-plus digital biographies will be available on the Internet. So be kind to your computer, for the ghost in the machine may be a long-lost relative.
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