Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Empathy Suit

i went to see a man about his empathy suit for metro saturday morning. it was very early (10am) and i was bad-haired and bleary-eyed. and very glad i was not the tv dude who was there. the dudely dude was called rich collier - he hosts the pbs show 'life part 2' and had flown in from manhattan just for the one-day shot. i tagged along, because it was the only time the man who built the empathy suit was free. it made for a very easy interview: i just pointed my tape recorder toward mr pbs and recorded his interview with mr empathy suit.

i wanted a photo of the shoot for my blog - isn't it nice? i do hope you appreciate it, because i accidentally ruined the shot with the next pic. i turned off the sound, but not the flash. whoops!

the suit was invented by nscad prof glen hougan to simulate the effects of aging. he thinks it will help people who design products for the elderly and people who work with the elderly to do their jobs better and with greater understanding. the suit restricts movement around the knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, neck, wrist and hands. a strap-on pot belly simulates weight gain and various mechanisms stoop posture. two layers of gloves reduce tactility and simulate poor circulation. the legs are tied together to imitate reduced stride and bad slippers create poor balance.

as if that wasn’t enough, goggles simulate a range of visual problems, from macro degeneration to eye hemorrhages and “floaters” – spots on your eyes. a straw gives the user a sense of what reduced lung capacity feels like and ear muffs reduce hearing.

normally, i would do my best to get myself strapped into such a contraption, but as always, the tv guy got to do it. it's all about the visual for them. hougan had a lot of good lines, and this was my fav - he's talking about how ugly aging aids tend to be: “The classic case is the orthopedic shoe – those big gorilla boots have been around for forty years and haven’t been redesigned. Can’t we find a more elegant solution for the problem?”

meanwhile, i've got a crick in my neck from star-gazing, but more on that tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. your description makes me sad to turn 60 (or whatever age all that will happen to me).