High-tech tombstone awaits first sale
Associated Press Writer
WAUSAU, Wis. ” No one would set a scrapbook filled with pictures and memories on the tombstone of a loved one.
But for about $2,000, Doug Ellis of Riverview Monuments can do a high-tech version of that.
Unfortunately for Ellis, no one’s buying ” yet.
He’s the only dealer in Wisconsin selling a solar-powered video panel that mounts to the front of the gravestone and pays tribute to the deceased in color pictures, words, music and even videos. It’s all from a small memory chip inside a device that opens like the front cover of a book.
Vidstone LLC, a company with offices in Florida and Colorado, developed the so-called “serenity panel” about two years ago and Ellis became a dealer in February.
“I haven’t sold any. It has been one of those deals where people say that is not for me,” he said. “I think the Wausau area is a little more conservative yet.”
Cheri Lucking, Vidstone’s national sales director in Aurora, Colo., said the company has about 100 dealers across the country, including two in Minnesota, four in Illinois and seven in Michigan, and one in the United Kingdom.
“We don’t release our sales figures,” she said. “It is not a huge number at the moment.”
Maria Schlitzberger, office manager of Schlitzberger and Daughters Monument Co. in Houston, said her company has sold one serenity panel in a year,
“That is a big step, putting electronics on your headstone,” she said. “People are used to sandblasted, granite and marble and things like that.”
Lucking likened the concept of putting a digital video scrapbook on a tombstone to when cell phones first came out and people said they would never own one.
“We all have one now,” she said.
Ways of honoring the dead are changing because of technology, Lucking said.
More funeral homes use state-of-the-art visuals and put LCD screens in their chapels to do multimedia presentations, she said. “Five or six years ago, they weren’t even doing video tributes.”
Scott Peterson, executive director of the Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association, said he’s only seen mention of the gravestone device in trade publications.
Four hours of sun provides enough juice to play the video with up to a 10-minute tribute on a 7-inch LCD screen about six times. There’s even headphone jacks to listen to the audio.
“I thought it was a neat thing to bring into the industry. Something unique, something a little above and beyond just the standard engraving and pictures that end up on a monument,” Ellis said.
Chuck Summers, retail sales manager for Moore Monument and Granite Co. in Sterling, Ill., has had the device for about three months and is awaiting his first sale, too. He’s got two good prospects but no signed deal.
“We range from $5,000 to $8,000 on a typical stone. When you tack on another $2,000 for the Vidstone, it gets pricey for the people in the area,” he said. “Everybody likes the idea.”
But there are other issues besides the price ” like which way will the tombstone face, given the player is solar powered.
“If the stone is under a tree, it is not going to work very well. If the stone is faced to the west instead of the east or north instead of the south, it is not going to charge as well,” Summers said.
On the Net:
Vidstone LLC: http://www.vidstone.com
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