AARP Opens Tech Lab to Foster Innovation

AARP has teamed up with the University of Illinois to open a lab to develop new technologies to improve quality of life for the 50-plus population.

To drive innovation in technologies that can benefit people as they age, AARP and the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) have joined forces. They held a grand opening of their joint innovation venture, the Tech Nest, last week at the university’s Research Park, a tech hub where many other organizations and corporations reside.

“Innovation is really part of AARP’s DNA,” said Jose Hernandez, vice president of IT business operations. “We are always looking for innovative ways to develop relevant and impactful products and services” to meet the needs of AARP members and the 50-plus population the organization advocates for.

The Tech Nest will explore innovative technologies and develop prototypes in the fields of artificial intelligence, mobile apps, information security, biometrics, and software engineering. They might include technologies that are voice activated, that assist caregivers, and that address isolation, for example.

AARP’s social mission involves enhancing people’s quality of life as they age. The Tech Nest and the prototypes it will generate are “central to our social mission in every way,” Hernandez said.

The relationship between AARP and the university is a win-win. “It’s a value exchange,” Hernandez said. AARP gets to engage talented students and faculty in developing prototypes, and to “tap into a world-class research-based university. It is one of the world’s most innovative universities, one of the top engineering schools, and it houses an award-winning Research Park,” he said.

“The Tech Nest provides a unique opportunity to leverage the depth of our campus’ interdisciplinary research in aging with our strengths in data science and computing,” University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Robert Jones said in a statement. “AARP adds a welcome new dimension to the experiential learning opportunities available to our students through the Research Park.”

Through the Tech Nest, AARP is pursuing “big and bold ideas,” Hernandez said. “These leading-edge technologies can have a positive impact.”

The Tech Nest is the latest addition to AARP’s “innovation portfolio,” which includes the Hatchery (an innovation lab) and the annual AARP Innovation@50+ LivePitch event.

AARP's Tech Nest, based at the University of Illinois. (Handout photo)

Allison Torres Burtka

By Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. MORE

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