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Market Overview for Technology for Aging in Place

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robotics

Refunds for international buyers of Jibo Robot -- the peril of hype

See a product swamped by global media hype miss expectations.  Refunds for international backers of Jibo. In December, 2015, cute ‘social’ robot Jibo “received $16 million from Asian VCs to enable it to speak and sell in Japan and China.” And that was just a portion of the total of $52 million raised, the first chunk on IndieGogo found 5,554 supporters raising $2.3 million.  But what just happened should not be a surprise. Why? Because “it won’t function up to our standards in your country… and will create more issues with Jibo’s ability to understand accented English than we view as acceptable.” Why all this money for a poorly defined, loosely described $500 table-top and presumably robotic companion beloved in the media?  Why indeed, as the GeekWire article rightly observes, Amazon Echo began selling at the same time, with many of the original Jibo hyped features and at a lower price point.

Five key trends driving 2016 technology for older adults

A look back to look forward.  Consider the context for 2016 innovation, despite (or as a result of) a still-erratic economy, and smaller-cheaper-better base technologies. At the same time, the assisted living industry watches residential age climbing – over half now are 85+. So the desire (or perhaps the only option) to age at home has further intensified. That has created opportunities like the AARP and Leading Age funds; research initiatives like Baycrest and Philips AgingWell; and startup pitch events like Louisville Innovation Summit, or Aging 2.0. Based on looking back at 2015, here then are five categories of trends for 2016:

So wrong: Japan’s hope for the tech-enabled and robotic aging life

Remember the Cyberdine demo of HAL at ASA some years ago? The Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) was designed by a venture firm in Japan to help a wheelchair-bound individual stand and move. It was very cool. It was priced at that time (2009) at around $5000. By 2014, the device could be rented for the equivalent of $1400/month. And now it has again been modified. This time, according to the WSJ article about Japanese demographics, the country needs its older laborers to work substantially longer. So a 67-year-old worker in the construction industry can stack wood just like someone half his age. Yay. And then there is the charming Pepper robot, selling for an equivalent of $1600, leading recreational activities in senior housing, charming the residents. In Japan, 13% of the population is 75+, and in another statistic, 15% of the 'elderly' population has dementia.

CES 2015 Part 3 of 3 – Six more innovations useful for older adults

So many companies, so much press.  So far, even though the gadget gadfly media has produced multiple post-CES articles, they are mostly of the gizmos-for-you and even for those health tech companies like Withings, press caught them in the activity-tracking ‘fun’ wearable category. Some write-ups were good visual tours, and some press folk offered up a ho-hum, nothing new to see here view, like the NY Times – Everything Old is New Again. Which is silly. There were a gazillion new things to see at CES, but no way to make sense of them. The floor layout in both convention centers we were in could best be categorized as dart board random -- except for booth numbers and mega-broad categories. So to finish off this trilogy of post-CES blogs, Part 1 addressed a few tech offerings in the aging-related space. Part 2 took a look at a few of the health-related technology innovations. Finally, a few others that could assist in the older adults market, here some additional picks, only OnKöl and VideoforAlle targeting the senior market. As Ars Technica noted about CES 2015, that's a wrap.

What makes sense for caregiving -- UberHealth or Caregiving Robots?

That clanking you hear is media drum-banging and robots walking. While the robotics world is literally rocking industries from manufacturing to surgery -- as caregiving robotic technology, there is still nothing much in our time, Paro, Jibo, and other media magnets not withstanding, still on the drawing board or at a price point that only a grant-funded pilot could love. Stated convictions that robots will be here because 'we need them' -- are just that -- stated. As every single article about robots and caregiving has concluded for the past oh-so-many-years, these marvels are in the future and when the caregiving variants do finally arrive, will be accompanied by an interesting set of challenges. Like electric and self-driving cars, the concept precedes the reality of distribution and resellers, battery charging configuration, maintenance and repair processes, rent or buy? And actually, consumers put caregiving robots in the same skeptical category as Google Glass and drones, which means even if they were available, marketing may be a challenge. And while robots as a concept keep popping up in senior housing publications -- nothing much has happened beyond the talk and the concept.

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