Testing Italy’s iRosary

e-rosaryFor Catholics who can’t remember their Hail Mary’s, there’s help: an electronic rosary.

Long a joke in the tech community, two ingenious Italians are the latest to launch an e-rosary.

I went to check it out a couple of weeks ago at one of the religious book stores here in Milan, where it sat on top of a glass case filled with elaborate ex-votos. The clerk was busy with an elderly signora, a regular, buying a block of Mother Teresa prayer books, so I had the chance to fiddle with it.

Version 1.0 of the rosary pod looks like a big, lightweight egg — nearly filled my hand — but felt as if only the will of God might keep it glued together. It is, however, easy to use: I accidentally set it off almost immediately, then couldn’t figure out how to get the woman’s droning voice to stop. (It is also oddly sans headphones.)

One of the inventors, Onorio Frati, told the AP recently that he created it to pray on the job. This seems a clunky solution at best, even with the smaller shuffle version.

Prices start at €29.50 (US$41.70), which seems a lot, considering a no-name mp3 player with enough memory for the rosary and the Pope’s podcasts costs about the same.

More than for busy workers, it seemed targeted towards tech-phobic old people, but I couldn’t imagine any of the spry nonna-types I know using something cumbersome and unlikely to look nice sitting around your house or coming out of your handbag.

There have been plenty of attempts to create portable religious aids, but none of them have really been super-fervent solutions.

Maybe Steve Jobs will get on the case.