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Start-Up That Brings Video Calls to Device Older Adults Watch Most Wins AARP Contest

Service also features TV AI companion that can check up on Grandma


spinner image costin tuculescu of onscreen talks into a mic at agetech after dark
Onscreen co-founder Costin Tuculescu explains how his company simplifies video calling for older adults.
ROGER KISBY FOR AARP

Since the pandemic, many people have gotten used to making video calls on their computers and phones via Zoom, FaceTime and other services.

The set-top box from Yorba Linda, California-based Onscreen lets you have video calls with an aging parent, grandparent or other relative through their own television.

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“It’s just a way to keep the family together,” says chief executive and cofounder Costin Tuculescu. Calls to Grandma’s TV originate on a relative’s phone. If Grandma’s TV is off, it automatically turns on after 30 seconds and answers the call. If she is watching a show, the TV switches to a screen that tells her Junior is calling and connects.

Onscreen bested four other start-ups at an invitation-only pitch competition that the AgeTech Collaborative from AARP hosted on Jan. 10 at the CES trade show in Las Vegas. AARP has run similar pitch fests over the past half dozen years or more.

As the winner, Onscreen earned a $10,000 prize.

spinner image people using onscreen to do face to face video calls on the television
Onscreen lets you have face to face video calls with your loved ones or doctors via the TV.
Courtesy of Onscreen

Onscreen’s video calls work for telemedicine, other uses

Product. The company’s device isn’t just about video calls with family. It also lets the older person go to telehealth sessions with their doctors through the TV, participate in Zoom classes, or attend virtual community events. Users can also engage with a generative artificial intelligence (AI) avatar companion named Joy who can play games and provide companionship to supplement family involvement.

Many people in their 80s and older aren’t tech savvy, which can make them feel lonely and isolated, Tuculescu says.

“Joy will greet you in the morning: ‘Hi Mary, have you had your breakfast yet? Have you taken your medication? What would you like to talk about? Would you like to talk about the most recent book that you’re reading?’ ” Tuculescu says.

Onscreen does not record conversations with Joy, but caregivers can monitor them from afar. They also can send pictures that appear on the TV as text messages and might remind Grandma of a doctor’s visit. And caregivers can set up recurring tasks delivered through Joy to their loved ones

The box, which is relatively small, plugs into an HDMI port on the television. Tuculescu compares it to a Roku with a camera and multiple microphones.

“I dealt with older folks and TV,” he says. “Asking them to switch inputs is never going to happen.” Current buyers are mainly adult children of people their 80s and older, with an even split between those still living at home and in independent or care communities.

Cost. $29.99 a month plus a $39.99 activation fee.

spinner image examples of how soliddds eyeglass technology corrects vision
Soliddd’s eyeglasses technology promises to correct severely blurred vision caused by macular degeneration so that the image on the left looks more like the one on the right.
Courtesy of Soliddd

Soliddd’s glasses will help those with macular degeneration

While Onscreen took home top AfterDark honors from the judges, Soliddd earned the audience choice award. About 200 million older adults worldwide live with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that can result in severely blurred vision in the center of your retina as you look straight ahead or bothersome blotches elsewhere.

Product. New York City–based Soliddd has developed electronic eyeglasses that can correct for AMD, “with a field of view as wide as nature,” says chief executive Neal Weinstock. A first-generation version of the glasses, currently in prototype, will be available later this year. More standard-style glasses are likely to arrive in 2026.

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Parallel rays of light are beamed from the periphery of your field of view to the far edges of your retina, where they engage the brain’s visual cortex to help you see more clearly, according to Soliddd’s website.

Cost. To be determined. Weinstock concedes the product will be expensive at the start. He expects to offer subscription plans at around $150 a month; he’s also looking to license the technology to eyeglass makers, which could ultimately lead to lower prices.

“We will always maintain Soliddd’s presence in the high end of the market,” Weinstock says. But he also envisions a strategy similar to Dolby, which sells high-quality gear for movie theaters then licenses its tech for use inside in a slew of consumer electronics products.

Other companies made their own pitches at the event at the Palazzo Hotel’s Lavo restaurant.

spinner image a woman wearing a baritone device to measure sleep apnea
Bairitone’s wearable can identify the causes of sleep apnea after one night of sleep.
Courtesy of Bairitone Health

Bairitone Health will diagnose sleep apnea quickly at home

Product. Houston start-up Bairitone is developing a wearable in-home device capable of diagnosing sleep apnea, a disorder that can lead to suffocation. Bairitone employs AI and sonar technology to diagnose the kind of obstructions and anatomy configurations in a person’s upper airways that may be contributing to breathing that repeatedly stops and starts.

“Unfortunately, most people only become aware they have a problem because of sharing a bed with a very concerned or very irritated partner,” chief executive Meagan Pitcher says.

The device is meant to be used for one night as a person sleeps in bed at home. Data is uploaded the next morning to an app, and a report is sent to a doctor, who can come up with a personalized treatment plan.

Cost. $2,000 per diagnosis, which Pitcher claims is well under the $5,000 it costs to diagnose sleep apnea under sedation in an operating room. Bairitone will be pursuing insurance and Medicare coverage.

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MapHabit visualizes the daily routines and steps a person with cognitive disorders needs to live independently.
Courtesy of MapHabit

MapHabit helps those with dementia step by step

Product. Atlanta-based MapHabit has created a platform of curated visual maps for the 6.7 million people in the U.S. with dementia and the 53 million people who care for them. The maps break down the basic daily tasks and routines required of the person to live independently: get dressed, make coffee, take medications, do laundry, prepare for a doctor’s visit and so on.

Users can view the maps on a smartphone, tablet, even paper. Visual cues may include pictures and video, and caregivers can share maps with their support teams.

Cost. Base pricing is $50 a member each month, with MapHabit targeting insurance programs.

Storii preserves family history through audio

Product. “Have you ever listened to voicemails of loved ones who have passed away just to hear them speak?” asks Cameron Graham, cofounder and CEO of Storii.

spinner image the storii app on a phone
Storii calls your loved ones with questions about their life and records and organizes their spoken answers for posterity.
Courtesy of Storii

The company, which has offices in San Mateo, California, and Edinburgh, Scotland, records and puts together life stories of aging relatives, without anyone needing to write anything down. The stories are collected through prearranged automated calls to the person’s mobile number or landline.

Storii prompts people with questions about their life. The answers are recorded, transcribed, organized and stored online where they can be downloaded as an audiobook. Storii has more than 1,000 question prompts, or you can come up with your own.

Cost. $99 for a year of three scheduled prompts a week.

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