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Increasing Social Connections at CES 2019


Social isolation is increasing despite the fact we live in an evolutionary time for technology. A Study in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry showed social isolation is as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and with 115 million American seniors, at least 50 percent could suffer from loneliness. The Consumer Technology Association Foundation recognizes how prevalent this epidemic is and launched its first pitch competition focused on the topic. AARP Innovation Labs sponsored the event, which was emceed by Daymond John — AARP Brand Ambassador, founder and CEO of the $6 billion lifestyle brand, FUBU, and co-star of ABC’s business show, Shark Tank.

“Helping to drive the development of innovative new products and services that focus on the interests and needs of people age 50-plus is an important element of AARP’s mission,” said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. “The CTA Foundation Pitch Competition will help deliver new solutions to a large and, so far, underserved market and spotlight a key opportunity that other businesses are missing out on.”

Out of 90 entrants, eight startups were chosen to compete in the pitch competition with one shared goal — creating a solution that increases social connection.

  • Fishball: Clip-on lens to turn iPhone into a 360-degree photo and video camera.
  • Glowbl: Video conferencing solution to allow multiple types of content to be shared at once.
  • GoSun: Solar stove with fuel-free technology that is low-cost, portable, versatile and durable. 
  • House of Haptics: Wearable bracelet to send human touch over distances.
  • Language Hero: Smart language training app that enables people who speak different languages to quickly and effciently communicate with each other via video chat.
  • StoryUP Studio’s Healium: Biometrically controlled virtual and augmented reality travel for areas of confined stress.
  • Tikaway: “Connected” camera glasses that provide hands-free video collaboration.
  • Waverly Labs: Earpiece that translates 15 languages and 42 dialects while providing music streaming and voice calls.

The entrepreneurs competed on Eureka Park’s Start Up Stage for the chance to be a f inalist at AARP’s grand pitch finale this fall. Each company had three minutes to present how their product reduces social isolation for the aging community. Each entrepreneur was also asked questions ranging from manufacturing costs and business strategies to product roadmaps and milestones by industry experts Denise Gibson, chair and co-founder of Ice Mobility; Andy Miller, SVP for Innovation at AARP; and Allyson Plosko, sector manager for health at Village Capital. After the presentations, the audience voted for Healium and Waverly Labs. 


Two Innovations

StoryUP’s Healium was developed by CEO Sarah Hill to help herself deal with areas of confined stress and realized this could also help others, such as veterans. These individuals could use their emotions to visit places in the virtual world, where ordinarily they could not go physically as a therapeutic way to reduce stress and experience the world.

Founder and CEO of Waverly Labs, Andrew Ochoa previously worked in groups where colleagues were in other countries and often communicated in different languages. Ochoa and his team created the sophisticated “smart, translating earbuds” that can translate 15 languages and 42 dialects in 1.5 to 2 seconds called Pilot.

Shark Tank’s Daymond John and AARP’s Jo Ann Jenkins also had a fireside chat where they discussed how technology is now a resource that can enhance each aspect of a person’s life at different stages, especially those 50 and older. Jenkins explained AARP’s focus is on the future and the value the 60-year-old organization can provide for its 38 million members.

The CTA Foundation is excited to build on this success, promote innovations and address the needs of older adults and people with disabilities. To learn how you can support this important work, visit: SupportCTAF.org.

Reve Van Croft

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