Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Robert Barrows In a Candid Conversation About Video Enhanced Gravemarkers

Funerals, not a fun thing to have to attend and going to a grave is even harder as that is a reminder that a loved one is no longer alive. Many people want to be able to remember their loved ones as they were before their death. And those who have died want to be remembered as well. Robert Barrows has a unique way for people to remember their loved one and for the living to keep the memory of what their loved one was like before they died. How is he doing this? In a very novel way; Mr. Barrows has created the Video Enhanced Gravemarker. Mr. Barrows thanks for doing a Candid Conversation. In a nutshell what is a Video Enhanced Gravemarker?

Robert Barrows.: The Video Enhanced Gravemarker (U.S. Patent # 7,089,495) is a video tombstone that will be able to deliver lengthy video content, with smooth transmission, in high quality, just like your home video equipment.

It has been designed to accommodate a wide variety of complex electronic and computer equipment and it will be far superior to other video tombstones that can only deliver brief, slide show content or simple text messages.

Now you will be able to go to a cemetery, get or rent a remote control device from the cemetery office, and listen to whatever a person might have wanted to record for their video tombstone.

Audio can be delivered through speakers attached to the video tombstone. Audio can also be transmitted to wireless headsets, which you could also get or rent from the cemetery office.

Video tombstones will make cemeteries fascinating places to visit. Video tombstones will also change the way that history is told.

Cliff T.: Where did you get the idea for the Video Enhanced Gravemarker?

Robert Barrows: I came up with the idea from a few different directions.
1) In addition to doing advertising, I am also a sculptor. I work primarily in stone. When you are carving a rectangular block of stone, you can’t help but think that you are carving your own tombstone.

Since I also do a lot of TV commercials and spend a lot of time in TV studios, I realized that I could also hollow out part of a stone and put a TV in it

2) There is also a term called “tombstone advertising.” That term generally refers to the ads that big investment houses run when they make an announcement about a financial transaction in a newspaper.

The ads generally just have a lot of text in them about the terms of the transaction. When I first heard the term “tombstone advertising,” I thought "What’s that, a television ad on a tombstone?" That started me thinking about video tombstones.

3) There is another interesting connection…Wyatt Earp! I was watching a movie about Wyatt Earp and at the end of the credits, it said that the movie was based on the book “My Friend, Wyatt Earp” by Doc Holliday. When I went to the library to look for the book, I looked in the card catalog and there were about two hundred books about Wyatt Earp, none of which were by Doc Holliday, and none of which were by Wyatt Earp, but at the end of the card catalogue, there was a listing for the Video: Tombstone. Eureka! Video tombstone! And then I started thinking about designing a real video tombstone.

Cliff T.: What are the reactions you have gotten from people regarding the Video Enhanced Gravemarker?

Robert Barrows: Some people think it’s cool. Some people think it’s creepy. It’s both. But it will also be fascinating.

Imagine the things you might hear from all kinds of video tombstones in the same cemetery.

Who knows what kinds of things people might say from their video tombstones, and who knows who was doing what with whom? You might hear all kinds of stories, many of them intertwined.

They say that dead men tell no tales? Well, not anymore! Wait until you hear what they may be saying about you from one of those video tombstones? And will it be truth or lies?

That’s the premise of a book I wrote about stories told through video tombstones. The book is called “Cemetery of Lies.” It is a collection of intimate, secret confessions, as told from beyond the grave, through video tombstones.

The video tombstone will also create a whole new genre of storytelling, with all kinds of stories being told through video tombstones. It’s an ideal storytelling device for everything from horror stories to love stories and historical pieces.

Video tombstones will also create some fascinating free speech issues, because how can you control what someone might say from their video tombstone?

What if they confess to a crime or make an incrimination?

What if they say something that causes emotional stress?

What if they say something that’s true or untrue about you?

How can you pull the plug and whom can you sue?

Worse yet, how can you collect?

I fully expect that as soon as a cemetery tries to censor or ban the speech from a video tombstone, that the case might go all the way to the Supreme Court.

Also, people may say all kinds of things from their video tombstones. They might just say sweet things to loved ones. They might also say all the things that they never had the opportunity to say, nor never had the guts to say while they were alive.

And who knows what people are really thinking? Even the mildest amongst us may have the wildest thoughts we could never have even imagined, but one day we may be able to hear those thoughts from their video tombstone.

Video tombstones will change the way we look at life and death. When you start recording your own obituary while you are still alive, it forces you to look at things in many different ways.

Video tombstones will also cause some interesting changes in estate law. When you make out your will, you will have to declare whether you want or do not want a video tombstone, and if you yourself don't make the video for your video tombstone, you would have to decide who among your survivors may make a video for use in your tombstone and what they can or cannot say in that video. You could also designate a date at which the tombstone will go "live." You might want it to go "live" as soon as it is erected, or x amount of years after you die, or x amount of years after your spouse dies, depending on the kinds of things you might record for
your video tombstone.

Cliff T.: As I mentioned Mr. Barrows, this is novel, I bet a lot of funeral directors and those who manage graveyards must raise eyebrows when they hear that the soon to be dearly departed want your product. How you pitch this to them?

Robert Barrows: When I speak to people in the funerary industry about video tombstones, I generally present the marketing potentials and revenue potentials regarding the video tombstones.

There are several major benefits of adding video tombstones to the memorial items they offer:

1) They will be able to get higher price points for these kinds of tombstones.

2) Cemeteries will be able to charge higher fees for plots that are designed for video tombstones. These sites will be wired for electricity. They may also have lighting around them to accommodate night viewing. They may also charge higher fees for security measures to protect the video tombstones.

3) There will also be income from perpetual care funds to replace the video equipment over time.

4) Funeral homes may also decide to get into the business of producing memorial videos. People may decide to spend a lot of money to produce high quality videos, and they may decide to record them over the course of many, many years.

5) The video tombstones will also be priced so that they will be profitable to the monument builder, the funeral home and the cemetery. Once the funeral industry takes a look at the potential increases in revenue, then they will be able to decide whether they want to offer video tombstones to their customers. Also, as customers start asking about them, and as time goes by, they will probably start becoming very well accepted.
6) Cemeteries may also set aside special sections of their cemetery to better accommodate video tombstones, and make it easier for visitors to view many video tombstones during the same visit to the cemetery.

When I do my projections on the potential market for video tombstones, I base them on the number of deaths. When I went to Google and searched for “How many people die in the United States everyday?” there was a figure (I think it was according to the National Association of Funeral Directors) of about 5300 deaths per day, just in the United States.

If just one tenth of one percent of the people who died wanted to have a video tombstone, that could result in sales of about five video tombstones per day.

At a profit of several thousand dollars from the video tombstone, plus revenues from sales of the perpetual care funds, companies in the funeral industry could make a lot of money from the video tombstone business, even if only one tenth of one percent of the people wanted them. Imagine if those percentages were even higher! Video tombstones could generate a tremendous amount of new revenue for companies in the funerary business.

Cliff T.: Now I know that people reading this are going to say eeew creepy, weird, morbid. What do you do to mitigate that, how do you make sure this does not come off as macabre?

Robert Barrows: It is weird. It is macabre, but it will also be fascinating. Imagine being able to go into a cemetery and listening to what some of your favorite celebrities might have to say from their video tombstone? And it’s not just celebrities. you never know what your relatives might have to say, or your friends and neighbors. The stories will be fascinating! Imagine if we could hear what people had to say about their lives in their own words! Imagine if we could go back through time and listen to video tombstones of everyone from people in the Bible and all throughout history. We could hear it in their own words, in their own inflection, from their own hearts and minds. We could listen to the real words of all kinds of heroes and villains! Imagine all the things we could learn!

And imagine the gossip it might create? Who knows what kind of juicy stories might be told from the tombstone next door?

Video tombstones will create all kinds of controversy and all kinds of curiosity. I am counting on that curiosity factor to help create a market for video tombstones and projects such as my book that are based on stories told through video tombstones.

I also expect that “Cemetery of Lies” will also be the premise for countless television and movie projects that will be based on stories told through video tombstones.

The video tombstone will help promote the book and the book will help promote the video tombstone. And there will always be fascinating news coverage when we can tune in to what people might say from their video tombstone. People might be able to say that their video tombstone will “go live’ on a particular date after their death, and there will be a lot of suspense as we tune in to see and hear what they might say.

Macabre? You bet it’s macabre, and macabre sells! Just look at all the horror movies that do giant box office.

Yessiree, there’s no business like show business, even from beyond the grave!

Cliff T.: Ok, so what is the typical thing that people ask you to do for their Video Enhanced Gravemarker?

Robert Barrows: People who have inquired are very straightforward in their requests.
One person was the son of a famous singer and he wanted to have a video tombstone to play his father’s recordings.

Another woman had a son who was a musician who died at the age of fifteen. She also wanted to put his videos and songs on a video tombstone.

Most of the questions have been questions about cost. Costs will vary since tombstones can be custom designed to any shape and size, and the video equipment

can also vary with the latest equipment available.

Cliff T.: How long are the messages, are there multiple ones a client can make and what format is the message recorded on?

Robert Barrows: Messages can be as much information as you can fit on a disk or other video playback device. Video can also be delivered by “cable” so the messages can be as lengthy as you want them.

The best way to record them would be to record them on what they call “broadcast quality” equipment. You can also record them on your home video equipment. As we go through time, and as video playback equipment evolves, the video content can be continually upgraded to newer media and newer equipment as technology advances.

When people go to a video tombstone, they would be able to use a remote control device to click on a menu of different stories, with replay, fast forward, etc.

The person making the videos can also leave instructions in their will as to what videos might play during what years, etc. They might say “don’t play a certain video until x number of years after their death”…or after the statute of limitations runs out on whatever things they might have done or said.

People will be able to set up their videos any way they want to, just like recording it for your own home video.

Cliff T.: Just as there are different styles of headstones there must also be different styles of your product, or is it a one size fits all?

Robert Barrows: The Video Enhanced Gravemarker can be custom designed. One of the keys to my patent is that the Video Enhanced Gravemarker features a hollowed out chamber with slanted walls and a curved floor so it can accommodate complex audio and video equipment.

Electronic equipment requires good ventilation. The electronic equipment will also produce heat. In a tombstone, the heat will also produce condensation.

The video tombstone I designed, The Video Enhanced Gravemarker, has an inner chamber that has been designed to mitigate the effects of condensation and provide good ventilation.

It would use weatherproofed video equipment, mounted on a platform above a curved floor.

The back of the tombstone would also have a locked door that can opened to give easy access to the chamber.

People can see the details of the patent by going to the United States Patent Office website. The patent number for the Video Enhanced Gravemarker is 7,089,495.

Cliff T.: for the Video Enhanced Gravemarker is there a cost scale or is there one set price and do you have packages that a client can get?

Robert Barrows: The prices will vary depending on the size and shape of the tombstone. If you go to a monument company today, you might see stone monuments that could accommodate a good sized TV screen that might cost about $5,000-$7,000 just for the stone itself.

Weatherproofed TVs, depending on the size of the screen and the range of temperature tolerances, might run anywhere from $4,000-$7,000 depending on the brand and features. Weatherproofed video players will add additional money to the


When you add the price of labor into the equation, and you plan it for a profit, the cost of a Video Enhanced Gravemarker might begin at about $25,000 and go up to much higher costs, depending on the requests of the customer and the video equipment available at that time.

In addition, there would be the cost of a perpetual care plan to provide for the upkeep and replacement of the electronic equipment.

I am currently looking for companies that would be interested in acquiring the rights to manufacture and market the Video Enhanced Gravemarker.

I am also looking for companies that would be interested in becoming suppliers of some of the materials and electronic equipment that can be housed in this video tombstone.

Those companies will be able to set the prices at the price points that make it reasonable for them to produce and sell the equipment.

I am also looking for a publisher for “Cemetery of Lies.” It is quite possible that a television or film company might realize that they can make a tremendous amount of money off of projects based on stories told through video tombstones, and since I have a patent on the invention, it is quite possible that a publishing company or an entertainment business company that might be interested in the book, “Cemetery of Lies,” might also be interested in acquiring the rights to the patent to help them promote the various projects that they might be planning around video tombstones.

In addition, companies in the funeral industry might also realize that while they might make reasonable profits from the video tombstone, they might also be able to make a fortune off of movies and TV projects based on stories told through video tombstones. It is quite possible that if funeral homes start producing videos for use in video tombstones, it may add a whole new meaning to the words "funeral director."

Cliff T.: Well it seems like you have a very unique way for people to remember their loved ones. However Mr. Barrows I have to ask has there ever been an occasion where you have had to tell a client that what they want to do is not feasible, if so what and why?

Robert Barrows: I have not yet manufactured one of these video tombstones. Once somebody orders one, I will be happy to start the process. It will work with off the shelf equipment, but it will cost a lot of money to manufacture, especially since it is “new.”

I am in the advertising business. Manufacturing tombstones is heavy industry and I hope to be able to find a company that is interested in acquiring the rights to manufacture the Video Enhanced Gravemarker.

With all the new advances in TV technology, I expect that people might also want to think about 3-D. Again, the Video Enhanced Gravemarker is designed to accommodate a wide variety of complex video equipment. The same design may also have many industrial uses for housing outdoor video equipment.

When I tell people that the price may start at about $25,000, that has been a limiting factor. Since prices for the video tombstone and prices for a wired cemetery plot, and prices for the actual video production and the perpetual care funds will also be a part of the equation, the initial commitment to a video tombstone will be very expensive. However, it is quite possible that as the demand for video tombstones increases, companies may start to mass manufacture video tombstones and bring the prices down to levels where they would be more attractive to a wider market.

Cliff T.: Do you go nationwide or is the marker just sold in California?

Robert Barrows: I hope to go worldwide with the Video Enhanced Gravemarker. Again, I am in the advertising and public relations business. Manufacturing tombstones is heavy industry.

Companies that would be interested in acquiring the rights to manufacture and market the Video Enhanced Gravemarker and publishers, producers and agents who would like to take a look at the manuscript for "Cemetery of Lies," can contact me at R.M. Barrows, Inc. Advertising & Public Relations in Burlingame, California at 650-344-1951. They can also email me at barrows@barrows.com

Cliff T.: Mr. Barrows, it has been a pleasure to have you join us in Candid Conversation. Thank you again for telling the readers of the blog more about the Video Enhanced Gravemarker.

Robert Barrows is the inventor of the Video Enhanced Gravemarker and is also the man behind the book Cemetery of Lies. Besides these two items, Mr. Barrows does advertising and PR work and has his own agency R. M. Barrows Inc. Located in California. You can visit his website http://www.barrows.com, for more info on the agency, book and also the grave marker.

Mr. Barrows wrote to us from his offices in Burlingame, California.

Cliff T.