In the last couple of days, there’s been an influx of Segways and bikes spinning around Washington D.C.
It’s sort of nice to see the Summer influx of visitors to the capital and those who are taking some time off from work and school to enjoy the sights and sounds around town here.
The one lady with her arm up, looks like she’s asking a question, but I think she is actually a runner trying to get by the biker crowd–either that or she may be having a heck of a time trying to keep up with the group. 😉
I am very excited by this new assistive technology for personal mobility coming out of Japan that can be used to help the aged or handicapped.Rather than have to buy a separate electric scooter for longer distances that is heavy and can be challenging for people with certain disabilities to use, the WHILLis a simple add-on that can be attached to and removed from a regular wheelchair and can be steered, like a Segway, simply by leaning in the direction you want to go.The WHILL is high-tech looking–like a futurist headphone that you place over the wheels of the chair and according to Gizmodo,it turns the wheels with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that powers the chair up to 12 mph for 19 miles and then recharges in under 2 hours.While pricing information is not yet available, my assumption is that this add-on will be significantly cheaper than a full-out electronic scooter.
One concern that I have about the WHILL is how someone who is wheelchair-bound will be able to attach/remove the drive-train device without the help of an aide or nurse. Perhaps an even more futuristic version will have the U-shaped WHILL built with push-button retractable arms, so that the attachment can simply “open up” rather than have to be removed.
Another question that I have is what safety features will be built in for example for automatic cut-off should someone using it get ill and keel over unto the device causing it to drive/spin out of control. I am thinking a weight-sensor on the WHILL that detects if too much of a person’s body weight is leaning on it and then cause a safety shutdown.
Overall, I am encouraged by what WHILL will soon be bringing to help people in need to get around more easily in the future.
Last week (19 October 2011) T3 Motion Inc. in CA launched their all electric Non-Lethal Response Vehicle(NLRV) for “crowd control.”The vehicle is a souped-up three-wheeled Segway equipped two compressed air powered rifles able to shoot 700 non-lethal rounds per minute of pepper, water, dye, or rubber projectiles, and each vehicles can carry 10,000 rounds.According to Trendhunter, the NLRV also has a “40,000-lumen LED strobe light, a riot shield, a P.A. system, and puncture-proof tires” as well as a video camera.The notion of a law enforcement officer shooting an automatic (non-lethal, as it may be) to quell a riot does not quite fit in with general first amendment rights for peaceful assembly and typical demonstrations that as far as I know are generally NOT an all heck break loose scenario.I wonder whether instead of a NLRV for handling riot control, a better idea would be a Lethal Response Vehicle (LRV)–with proper training and precautions–to handle homeland security patrols at major points of entry and around critical infrastructure.From an architecture perspective, this seems to me to be a clear case of where a “desirement” by somebody out there (gaming, fantasy, or what not) should be channeled into fulfilling a more genuine requirementfor people actually protecting our homeland.The benefits of speed and maneuverability can benefit field officers in the right situations–where real adversaries need to be confronted quickly with the right equipment.
User-centric EA is based on business driving technology, rather than technology for technology’s sake.
An example of technology for technology’s sake:
Segway today is an example of technology for technology’s sake: The basic model has no weather protection or ability to carry family members or luggage. It is innovative and seems like it has a lot of untapped potential, but as of now, has not been aligned with the needs of its potential users.
Requirements should come first.
From a User-centric EA approach, rather than starting with hundreds of new technology patents, Dean Kamen the founder of Segway and his organization should have started with an ethnomethodological study of individual and social mobility and the requirements for the individual and society for transporting people and property under various environmental and personal situations.
There is an important place for innovation.
Mr. Kamen and Segway have developed some innovative and helpful technology: Segway has helped in the energy efficient and personal mobility marketplace. Segway has especially helped disabled people with its amazing stairclimbing technology. So certainly, there is a place for pure innovation and creativity by the engineering community, like the approach Segway has pursued. However, for Segway, the market penetration and potential for benefiting greater numbers of people remains somewhat at a distance.
In contrast to Segway’s pure engineering approach, in User-centric EA, innovation is critical, but user requirements are primary!