“Talking is a Lost Behavior”: Messaging for Those In Need of an Ear

“Talking is a Lost Behavior”: Messaging for Those In Need of an Ear

As easy as a walkie-talkie, a messaging app is helping you talk more

Rob Kleiman
  • 26 january 2016

“We are not just creating a global communication product but also inspiring a global movement to get people talking more through conversations,” says Ricardo Vice Santos, a former Spotify engineer. Ricardo and his co-founder Andreas Blixt began working on Roger, a voice messaging app after Ricardo ran into a pole while he was walking through the streets of Manhattan and texting a friend in Sweden. After the unfortunate incident, Santos and Blixt felt like there should be a simpler, more personal way to communicate than text messaging.

They wanted a product with more emotion and context that would be easily understood and adopted by anyone with a phone.

sizedRoger - Co-Founders 2 copy.jpg

Roger lets you start conversations with anyone on your contact list, whether or not they happen to be on the service. Like a walkie-talkie, it’s casual and easy to use; simply tap to talk and tap to listen.

On December 8, 2015 the app went live; since launching, Roger has been used by people from more than 60 countries, including Japan, Qatar, Brazil, India, USA, UK, Sweden, France and others. Two months after this launch, the company has secured a $1 million seed round led by Social Capital. The New York Times, for one, called the Roger a 21st century walkie-talkie.

The right way to go about this interview, then, it seemed, was using the app to speak with Santos. At first, his team thought the primary audience for the app would be people like them, young expats living abroad who are far away from family and friends. Apart from its cross-border appeal, he and his team instead found a different set of users than expected: Roger resonated with the elderly and people with motor or visual disabilities, often-overlooked communities in the consumer technology space.

Santos says:

“I am getting a lot of heartwarming emails from people who have used Roger; I am also having conversations with the blind on Roger, for instance.

They give me feedback—they mention the things that could be better. But, overall, they are really happy, and it’s something I [wasn’t] directly exposed to at Spotify. I worked on localization and launching products locally—but not with this specific demographic.”

roger app

This is a great sign that there is a market for assistive technology. Through applications like Roger, these communities, are getting a voice.

“It’s interesting to see how Roger can be good thing for them; they have trouble just typing, turns out a lot of people would use Siri or some voice recognition system to text, but often it doesn’t get their message right. For example, some peoples’ eighty-year-old fathers and mothers don’t understand text messages. Or, they don’t type well on a smartphone. There are other people with accessibility issues, too.

We’re not trying to compete with another particular product—we are just trying to build something that helps us and others talk more often.”


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