Social

VR comes of age, as Rendever, a mixed reality startup focused on the elderly, acquires Alcove from AARP

Comment

Image Credits: Rendever (opens in a new window)

Elderly people are not typically thought of as early adopters of cutting-edge technology, but there are startups looking to buck that trend, banking on an opportunity to provide them with new services like VR, to address the specific needs of elderly consumers. Today one of the bigger startups in the space, Rendever, is announcing an acquisition to expand its business. The company, which builds virtual reality experiences designed to help elderly people feel less lonely and currently has some 600,000 users, has acquired Alcove, a platform developed at AARP — the organization that both lobbies for and provides services like insurance and support to members, who are typically retirees and older people.

Rendever operates as a B2B service — it works with care homes and other organizations to create customized VR experiences that are in turn used for those organizations’ elderly residents — but Alcove is more consumer-facing and is currently sold as a service to AARP’s members. It describes itself as a “family-oriented virtual reality app.” Available to use on Meta (Oculus) Quest, the app is laid out as a virtual living room where families can “meet” and look at photos, play games, watch movies or just converse together.

Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed but from what we understand, Rendever is paying cash for Alcove, and AARP is taking equity in Rendever as part of the deal.

Rendever and AARP are not strangers. The latter is one of the startup’s investors (others include Mass Challenge and the Dorm Room Fund; it also had grants from the National Institute on Aging and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) and they had initially co-developed Alcove together before AARP decided that it no longer wanted to invest in developing it in-house.

“We at AARP are thrilled to have Rendever acquire and continue expanding the capabilities of such an impactful product as Alcove,” said Rick Robinson, VP and GM of the AgeTech Collaborative at AARP. “We know virtual, immersive experiences can demonstrate tremendously positive outcomes, especially for the socially isolated and we expect Alcove will continue helping even wider audiences under Rendever’s leadership.” The org, he said, is not pulling away from tech, but it will pursue it in collaboration with third parties more in the future.

That shift — and this piece of M&A — both underscore part of a bigger trend that is being played out in tech. Not only has the bear market led to startups having a harder time raising money right now, but also organizations are reining in budgets for tech projects (if not completely killing them off) if those projects are not showing a strong return or quick path to profitability. This in turn is spurring more M&A activity as a means to giving those startups and those projects a lifeline in these leaner times.

The fact that the asset in question here is focused on elderly people is also significant. Technology is now part and parcel of how we interact with each other, something that became ever more the case in the peak of COVID-19 as people had to isolate more from each other and travel got curtailed. Although there are a lot of older consumers who resist a lot of tech — they may not have mobile phones, or can’t solve simple glitches on their computers, or they don’t use any kind of social media — that population is evolving as more digitally savvy consumers age.

All of this will lead to a bigger market and a bigger demand for services and devices aimed at older people’s specific needs and preferences. (And this week at CES, building for that population, not just VR like this but gadgets like hearing aids, is forming a big part of what might more generally be described as “accessibility” tech but could just as accurately be seen as more sophisticated approaches for specific audiences.)

The idea that there is an untapped market of users, but who could be a perfect audience for VR, formed part of the premise for Rendever getting started in the first place, CEO and co-founder Kyle Rand said.

“We had the idea of bringing VR into senior living communities to address social isolation,” he said of the original idea for the startup in 2016. At the time, most were skeptical, he said.

“Back then, when we told people this idea, and we provided some demos, we got laughed at. No, they said, you’re going to use this technology with this demographic [because] they must be tech averse. But what we found was that if you can make it easy to get somebody into the experience, and provide something meaningful and joyful, the opportunities were just limitless.” He said when users come into virtual rooms for the first time, or use them to “travel” back to their childhood neighborhoods using Google Maps and Street View, people would “light up.”

Although providing ways to ease social isolation might have previously been seen as a nice-to-have, the premise took on a different urgency during COVID-19 when so many were isolated out of caution and sometimes actual public health regulations, and people started to understand just what toll isolation could have on mental health, regardless of the age. Today, the startup works with some 500 senior living communities in North America, and it has to date delivered more than 2 million VR experiences to older adults.

Rendever is largely bootstrapped — it has raised less than half a million dollars in the last eight years — but it’s now using the fact that it is profitable and growing while addressing an evolving market to go out for its Series A. We’ve delivered over 2 million experiences in VR to older adults.

Read more about CES 2023 on TechCrunch

More TechCrunch

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo