Can This App Help Preserve Your Family History? Hands On With Remento

Can This App Help Preserve Your Family History? Hands On With Remento

In corporations, senior managers are often interviewed before they retire to capture institutional memory and retain important lessons. Likewise, children and grandchildren often try (sometimes in vain) to get their loved ones to fill in the voids of their lives before it’s too late to ask.

There are a number of ways to go about this, from turning on the camera on your phone and pressing record to handing grandma a pen and some paper, but a number of services have in recent years came forward to help people ask the right questions of them. loved ones and, hopefully, spark conversations about memories that would otherwise be lost to time.

One such service is Remento(Opens in a new window). It launched on iOS in September (Android coming soon) with $3 million in funding(Opens in a new window). It aims to make it easy to capture, store and share family stories. As an Android user, I dug my old iPod touch out of my graveyard tech drawer and fired up Remento for a glimpse into the past. It offered an interesting way to catalog life’s great moments (and more obscure thoughts about life), but the UI needs some refinement and the app could benefit from a virtual host that could help camera-shy users to ‘ to open up a little. Here’s what to expect.

My name is not Susan

Remento offers three login options: Continue with Apple, Google or email. I chose Google, and when it didn’t recognize me as a user, Remento asked if I wanted to create an account. I agreed to the terms and was given the green light to proceed.

After a brief walkthrough of its features, Remento serves up a sample project titled “Susan” on the My Projects screen, with a photo of an older woman (Susan, I assume) next to a sepia-toned photo of her decades ago in law, playing an acoustic guitar.

screenshots of the susan example project on remento

(Credit: Remento/PCMag)

I tapped on Susan’s avatar and pressed play at the bottom of the screen. In an embedded thumbnail video that overlays the older snapshot, Susan offers a backstory about the image. Below the image are three text boxes of prompts that Susan answered about the photo (“How did that experience make you feel?” What made it so memorable?” and “What might have made this experience even more memorable?”)

After four minutes of Susan’s background, I returned to the main screen, tapped the ellipsis and selected Delete Project. It was time to take my own trip down memory lane.

Who is telling your story?

To begin, tap the plus (+) sign button at the bottom right. On the next screen, choose from a set of prompts for yourself or the person you are interviewing (parent, grandparent, sibling, partner, child or anyone) or scroll down and start over with questions or photos.

screenshots to create your own story on remento

I was going to ask a family member to share memories for the purposes of this hands on, but they all live 6,000 miles away, and I thought holding the iPod after a Google Meet session would be less than optimal in terms of conversational gaming, not to mention video/audio quality.

I have a professional mentor who is now in his 80s, a person of standing with many rich anecdotes. But they looked horrified when I asked, as if I said: “You could die any day now, can we record some of your stories?” (I didn’t, at least not out loud.)

Which is kind of the problem with these kinds of programs. You’re basically asking someone close to you to tell you their life story, against a backdrop of their impending mortality. After COVID, we are all somewhat sensitive about that topic, not surprisingly.

So I stopped looking for an interviewer, but chose not to “Myself”option because it felt too strange. So I did “Anyone” selected to see what the conversational assignments might be.

Setting up the interview

The choice of “Anyone” as an interview subject I was given 10 sets of prompts including Record the Story Behind an Object; Reflect on scrapbook photos; and Capture this moment. Some sets had a single question or assignment, while others had five or six.

I chose Record the story behind an object because I was sitting at my desk surrounded by familiar objects, including favorite books, framed photos, and other miscellaneous items.

    Record the Story Behind an Object screenshots

(Credit: PCMag/Remento)

The next screen presented six potential directions, which I could select or deselect. The process is not 100% intuitive. To upload a photo, the first prompt (an empty photo square at the top “What is this object?”) is marked. Then you type Use X of 6 directions below, which brings you to a screen where you can tap the photo icon to upload a photo or take a new one. However, it was a bit finicky for me and didn’t accept the photo I selected.

Instead, I checked out some of the other quick options. Inside the project I tapped on the ellipsis and selected Edit prompts > Add prompts > Questions from librarywhich brought up 12 categories, segmented by life stage (childhood, teenage, romance, parents, career, etc.) or major world events, such as COVID-19.

Edit Prompts > Add Prompts > Questions from Library Screenshots” data-image-path=”articles/05KFQUbf3r4fKIA7m4kSrb9-6.png” class=”my-4″/></p><p>
<small></p><p>(Credit: PCMag/Remento)<br />
</small></p><p>The “Career”-questions felt like generic job interview questions (“What are the most important lessons you have learned from your career?”) while “Celebrations” transitioned to therapy-level digging (“Are there traditions practiced by your family that you don’t like?”) and “Self-reflection” has the traditional “What advice would you give your younger self?”</p><p>Nothing really appealed to me, so I chose “Where in the world do you have the most peace?”  just for the sake of this test and it added the command to my picture on the next screen.  I also got the option to add a question under the photo.</p><hr/><h2 id=Record the story behind an object

The iOS permissions dialog will request access to your microphone and camera so you can record videos. Do it in selfie mode to capture your own memories or flip to the rear camera to record interviews with friends or family.

Here is where I got a little lost. My uploaded photo seemingly disappeared, but the questions about the now-disappeared object were pre-filled at the bottom of the screen. Then I got it with the question I typed under the photo as prompt seven, even though the entire survey was supposed to be about this object. Surely it must be present throughout the interview process? The last assignment was the “Where in the world are you most at peace?” question I chose above.

Record the Story Behind an Object screenshots

(Credit: PCMag/Remento)

I wanted to continue with the recording now, but the “Record Now”button was grayed out and not functioning. When I clicked on it, a dialog box appeared encouraging me to edit my command and add… a photo. A little annoying, but for the purposes of this test I painstakingly deleted all the commands except the one that appeared with my object pointed and pressed “Record now.”

It gave me a 3, 2, 1 countdown. I talked about the object for a minute or so. The red line at the bottom of the screen showed me how much time was left. I have “Pause Recording” and then “Done for now.”

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Playback and export

export screenshot

(Credit: PCMag/Remento)

On the next screen I had the option of Play, and everything looked fine; the sound quality was good. I clicked on the three-dot menu and saw options including Export Recording, which was available with video only, directions with audio only, or directions with video and audio overlay. I chose that last one.

It extracted the combined 35.6MB file, which was too big to send via Gmail, so I saved locally to my files on the iPod touch, and it appeared in my Albums, where it played perfectly. If I wanted to share it, I would have to upload it to the cloud and get a shareable link.

Why not incorporate AI?

Remento has a long way to go. The concept of the assignments is great, and you can tell that thought has gone into their creation. I can stop after a few and begin to see how one could conduct a decent interview with a beloved family member. But the video embed is too small; it’s basically a thumbnail.

If you’re going to use it, I recommend watching some of Remento’s promotional videos(Opens in a new window) on Vimeo to get a feel for the flow of the app first, as it’s not that intuitive. There are also creators on TikTok who give their verdict(Opens in a new window) if you want to check it out too.

Not to be a downer, but not every family is full of happy memories. Still, difficult situations, trials, tribulations and so on are fascinating, and deserve to be recorded for posterity. But, and I speak from experience here, it is not always possible to get grandparents to open up to grandchildren.

For example, several of my (now late) family members had adventures of derring-do during World War II, and I tried to get them to talk to me about it. But army personnel tend not to open up to civilians, especially if they are related to them.

Here’s where AI — specifically virtual humans — can step in to help. When I wrote about virtual humans helping veterans prepare for job interviews, I learned how military veterans felt more comfortable talking about their combat experiences with an AI, who wouldn’t judge them.

I think a future iteration of an app like Remento with a virtual human extracting the memories of the interviewee would work very well. Especially if the AI ​​builds trust over time by encouraging the person to record a little each day.

Then the underlying natural language processing and machine learning can extrapolate semantic meaning, apply tags, categorize, seamlessly complete metadata fields in the background and deliver a coherent story. Similar projects have been created for people living with dementia, via voice assistants, to stimulate memory retrieval to keep the synapses firing.

Many people now have at least a decade of memories poured into disparate social media accounts. I understand the value of encouraging intergenerational conversations, saved for posterity, via apps like Remento(Opens in a new window). But there has to be a way to unleash an AI in the background to consistently catalog the highlights of a person’s life and create the story over time.

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