Season 2, Ep. 9: Using VR to Reverse Alzheimer’s with Jacob Hamman, Founder of Zenjoi

In the US, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease every 66 seconds. Of the estimated 5.5 million Americans suffering from the disease in 2017, approximately 5.3 million are over the age of 65, while 200,000 have developed early-onset Alzheimer’s. In fact, this insidious disease in the sixth leading cause of death in the US. Without intervention, the number of people living with Alzheimer’s is projected to grow to 16 million by the year 2050. But today’s guest is not about to let things progress without intervention.

Jacob Hamman graduated from USC with a degree in architecture, where he honed his aptitude for design thinking and creative problem-solving. After seven years with the prestigious Los Angeles firm, Gehry Partners, Jacob pursued a master’s in design studies and technology with a focus on virtual reality from Harvard. 

Jacob’s mom was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s three years ago. Caught off guard by the diagnosis, he set out to find a way to use VR to reverse the disease. Jacob founded the health technology company Zenjoi a year and a half ago with an intention to create peace of mind and improve quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients through dementia-based assistive technologies and a therapeutic VR experience.

As part of Boost VC Tribe 10, Jacob is working to bring the virtual reality that is helping his mom to the world, with the goal of eradicating Alzheimer’s in the next decade. We discuss how his design background lends itself to his work around virtual reality and what he came to understand about Alzheimer’s as he developed Zenjoi. Listen in to and learn what Jacob considers the key metric of success and why VR is the ideal medium for people experiencing cognitive decline.

Jacob’s background in design and technology
•    Grew up in Phoenix with interest in design
•    Degree in architecture from USC
•    Seven years at Gehry Partners in LA
•    Foundation in creative problem-solving
•    Master’s in design studies and technology from Harvard

Why VR serves as the best medium for Alzheimer’s patients
•    Touch screens foreign to aging population
•    VR puts inside experience, allows to act intuitively
•    Uses hand tracking, user can interact with elements