>This Idea Has Real Legs

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Check out this video of Rex, The Robotic Exoskeleton.

An incredible advance for the disabled in providing better mobility.

Light years ahead of a wheelchair, Rex enables people to stand, walk, climb stairs, and generally lead more normal and healthy lives.

Rex is not meant to supplant the wheelchair (where you can sit), but to augment meant it (with the ability to stand).

“If you are a wheelchair user, can self transfer and use a joystick with your hand, Rex amy offer you a way to stand, move sideways, turn around, go up steps as well as walk on flat hard surfaces including ramps and slopes.” (www.rexbionics.com)

The idea for REX came from the movie Aliens, where Ripley (Sigourney Weaver, the main character) fights the big mother Alien in a “Power Loader” suit. The exoskeleton designed for transporting and stacking large supply crates is used to do some serious damage to the Alien.

Exoskeletons have been explored as battle suits in movies, video games (Halo), and even in the real military as future combat wear.

Nice to see an application of the technology that can kill/maim to also heal/help people. Of course this isn’t the first time military technology has been applied to the consumer market; for example, the Internet itself on which I am writing this blog, was developed by DARPA.

The point is that technology itself is not good or bad, but rather how we use it, is what determines it’s ultimate effect.

According to CNN, Rex invested $10 million and seven years in developing this bionic dream machine made from 4700 parts. FDA approval is being sought, so Rex can be marketed it in the U.S.

It’s not hard to imagine exoskeleton technology being used not only for helping the disabled and fighting future wars, but also for augmenting the everyday workforce as body bionics to work the fields, build our infrastructure, transport goods, and even for us intellectual types, to run between (or out of those) meetings that much faster.

>Texting Gone Wild and Enterprise Architecture

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Information availability and communication mobility is all the craze. We are connected everywhere we go. We have our phones, PDAs, and laptops as part of our everyday gear. We wouldn’t leave the house without one or more of them or a converged device like the iPhone or Sidekick. And people are walking and driving around yapping on the phone or typing out text messages. Evan at work, people are answering the phone and texting in the stall. What is it about being connected with these devices that we literally can’t let go?

The Wall Street Journal, 25 July 2008, reports that “Emailing on the Go Sends Some Users Into Harm’s Way.”

These multi-taskers “ram into walls and doorways or fall down stairs. Out on the streets, they bump into lampposts, parker cars, garbage cans, and other stationary objects.”

Are people getting hurt?

You bet. James Adams of Northwestern Memorial Hospital is Chairman of Emergency Medicine, and he states “he has treated patients involved in texting incidents nearly every day this summer.”

Things have gotten so out of control that one London company began “outfitting lampposts with padded bumpers in the in the East End to cut down on injuries to errant texters.”

The stories go on and on about texters who bump into brides at wedding, fall off of curb and into construction barricades, walk into two-by-fours toted by construction workers, knock into bikers, and fall down staircases.

As a student of organizational behavior and an enterprise architect, I ask myself what is going on that people feel such a compelling need to be in touch literally every second. Are people craving intimacy? Are they insecure? Do they get a high by connecting with others and just can’t stop? Is this good thing for society and our organizations?

Certainly, the ability to communicate anytime, anywhere is a good thing. It makes us more capable. It can make us more productive (if we don’t end up killing ourselves in stupid accidents doing it irresponsibly). But like all good things, we need to learn to control our appetite for them. It’s the difference between eating thoughtfully or eating thoughtless, like glutton. Or between taking medicine when needed to treat a legitimate medical condition or just using recklessly like an addict.

Part of good enterprise architecture is building balance into the organization. Architects introduce new technologies to enable performance, but should also help develop policies and ensure training for responsible usage.

It’s terrific to bring new capabilities to the organization and society, but our role as architects does not end there. The human capital perspective of the enterprise architecture comes into play and demands that we go beyond the pure business requirements and technology solutions, and explore the impact of the technology on the people who will use. The human capital perspective of the architecture provides a lens through which we can manage the integration of people and technology.

I’d believe that we should educate people to use technology more responsibly, rather than outfit every lamppost and tree with bumper pads!