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As Rendever, a mixed reality startup aimed at the elderly, buys Alcove from AARP, VR matures

Despite the stereotype that the elderly are slow to accept new technologies, several companies are betting on the elderly as an untapped market for innovative products and services like virtual reality (VR). Rendever, one of the more established firms in the industry, has just announced a strategic purchase. Alcove was originally developed at AARP, an organisation that advocates for and provides services like insurance and support to its members, who are typically retirees and older people. This company, which has some 600,000 users, has acquired this technology in an effort to create virtual reality experiences that will make the elderly feel less lonely.

While Alcove is now marketed as a service to AARP’s members, Rendever operates as a business-to-business (B2B) service, working with care homes and other organisations to develop tailored VR experiences for the senior inhabitants of those organisations. A “family-oriented virtual reality app,” as it calls itself. Available to use on Meta (Oculus) Quest, the programme is built out as a virtual living room where families can “meet” and browse at photographs, play games, watch movies or just speak together.

As far as we can tell, Rendever is purchasing Alcove with cash, and AARP is receiving ownership in Rendever in exchange for their participation in the transaction.

It’s not like Rendever and AARP have never met before. AARP is an investor in the startup (along with Mass Challenge and the Dorm Room Fund; the National Institute on Aging and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have also provided funding) and the two organisations co-developed Alcove at first before AARP decided to stop funding the project internally.

AARP’s Vice President and General Manager of the AgeTech Collaborative, Rick Robinson, expressed his organization’s delight at Rendever’s purchase of Alcove and its plans to continue developing the product’s features. Under Rendever’s guidance, we anticipate Alcove to continue assisting a broader audience. “We know virtual, immersive encounters may offer enormously great consequences, especially for the socially isolated,” The group, he added, is not moving away from tech, but it will explore it in conjunction with third parties more in the future.

In 2016, he explained, the company’s founders had the notion to “introduce VR into senior living homes to alleviate social isolation.” According to him, many were dubious back then.

“When we first presented this concept to the public and showed them some demonstrations, they scoffed at us. They said no, you can’t utilise that kind of tech with that crowd; they must be too resistant to change. However, we discovered that the possibilities were almost endless if you made it simple to include people in the experience and gave them something of value and happiness. His prediction was that people’s faces will “light up” as they entered virtual rooms for the first time, or when they “travelled” to their old neighbourhoods via Google Maps and Street View.

When so many individuals were secluded during Covid-19 due of fear and sometimes genuine public health rules, the idea of offering means to reduce social isolation took on a fresh urgency. People of all ages began to realise the toll isolation might take on mental health. So far, the business has provided over 2 million virtual reality (VR) experiences to those 65 and older through its partnerships with over 500 senior living homes across North America.

Rendever has been operating on its own resources for the past eight years, raising only $500,000 in venture capital. The company is now ready to seek Series A funding since it is profitable, expanding, and meeting the needs of a changing market. Over 2 million virtual reality (VR) sessions have been offered to seniors.