By Katie Davis
But Salesky is also a dad, and formerly, a divorced one. Now, he’s a grandfather as well, but he still lives more than an hour’s drive from his first grandson.
He knows what it’s like to want to spend more valuable time with kids or grand kids who are far away.
That’s why he’s created ustyme, a unique application that combines video interfacing technology with reading and gaming technologies one might see with apps for tablets and smartphones.
DadsDivorce: So, what is ustyme?
Joe Salesky: It’s a video platform that really focuses on content-centered interaction. Video calls are typically all about communication. That’s easy to understand. When you’re on a phone call or a video call, the people themselves are the content.
That’s different than when you sit down with your child, you two are reading a book together and the book is the focus or content. Those are the types of moments where conversation happens naturally because no one’s under pressure to come up with stuff to discuss.
Ustyme is really the first platform for video calls with content-centered interaction – there are books you can read together, games to play together and more. It’s really designed so that the video call itself is not the focus, but so that the activities become the focus or what’s happening.
DD: What initially motivated you to come up with this idea?
JS: My first wife and I divorced when our two daughters were six and four. My biggest concern then in addition to how I would financially support two households was worry that I wouldn’t get that same valuable time with my kids.
My ex wife moved about an hour away. I would see them every weekend and make plenty of efforts to arrange one-on-one time with each of my daughters, but it wasn’t the same as seeing them all the time and getting to read, cook together whenever we wanted to.
I found that getting them to spend time on the phone was a bit difficult. I could get them to give a quick update about what was happening in their day, but it wasn’t the same as actually being there. It wasn’t as much fun for them, or for any of us, as playing games together. And you can’t really play games over a normal phone call.
DD: So, your experience with divorce and your daughters prompted this?
JS: That was part of it. Fast forward a bit, and I was remarried to my current wife, we built a wonderful blended family and I now have a grandson. He lives about 600 miles away.
When he was born, I was wondering these same things. How was I going to spend time with my grandchild? How were we going to do things together?
I saw that I really couldn’t do those one-hour drives all the time that I used to do to see my kids, and there would still be lots of evenings when I wouldn’t be seeing him. I looked everywhere to see if there was a platform where I could spend time with him, we could hang out online in a video call setting and also play games. There just wasn’t.
Having worked on all the web conferencing and video tools for the web before, I realized that all of these platforms were focused on communication. Things like Kindle were focused on books and games, but they didn’t do much at all with sharing.
DD: Was that when you decided to merge the technologies?
JS: Yes. I wanted it to be almost like my grandson was sitting on my lap, and we were reading a book. That’s really what created ustyme. It’s been exciting because both my current wife and I have helped create this together.
Now, all kinds of people in our lives like my grandson, daughters, friends and more are using it. I’ve even had divorce attorneys contact us and say this is a great tool because so many parents miss out on time with their kids.
DD: Why do you think this technology will be so important?
JS: I think the success of a child in life comes from that child feeling special. People call it value time, but it’s really just time. It doesn’t matter if you’re working on the car, playing a game or something else – the activity doesn’t really matter. It’s ime together in an activity where they can have one-on-one time with you and they feel special.
*Note that ustyme is currently free to download and is available for desktops or laptops through Google Chrome, available as an app for tablets and will soon be available for smartphones. Launch ustyme here.