Does technology help or hinder our lives?

There have always been rumours that iPod’s are going to be non-existent within the next 10 years, and Facebook membership is on a decline. Would you have believed that 5 years ago?

I remember cassette tapes were the newest way to listen to music (luckily, I was born outside the ‘just’ vinyl records era!), the first release of brick-sized mobile phones and our very first dishwasher and DVD player at our home.

Tech advances & innovation

I love reading about future technology – it is fascinating, inspiring and scary – but with all the changes seen each generation that passes, it is inevitable that technology across most industries will have an ever-increasing presence in the lives of people.

There are many family-orientated technological gadgets and devices that we have purchased that simply did not exist decades ago – audio/visual baby monitors, miniature laptops with touch screen educational programmes, seat-swivelling car seats for ease of loading our son into the car….yes we bought into the gloss and glare of how these things would make our lives easier….until the baby monitor started beeping randomly at 3 a.m, the laptop chewed through batteries constantly, the easy-to-use swivel handle on the car seat miraculously gets stuck when loading our son and 3 bags of groceries into the car as an impatient driver waits for our carpark space!

So, does technology help or hinder our lives?

Here are some technological innovations which are certain to alter the lives of persons with reduced mobility:

Norio, is a robot is operated by tourists with reduced mobility who would like to access visitor rooms not located on the ground floor at château d’Oiron in the Deux-Sèvres region in France (Norio’s name is Oiron in reverse, clever huh? 🙂

Tourists use a joystick to manoeuvre Norio around the visitor rooms, and in return Norio relays audio and high-definition videos about the displays back to a big screen on the ground floor.

During testing of the robot’s navigation, one wheelchair-bound resident living in a nearby village remarked that it was the first time she had visited the château in her 40 years of life.

Norio is free to use for travellers with reduced mobility (reservation in advance), who also receive free entrance to the château as well as their accompanying carers.  It would be brilliant to see this concept spread as France has many heritage buildings that are not tourist-optimised for everyone, and the 2005 Accessibility Law in France has only just put in place deadlines for public accessibility to be improved.

I am yet to receive a reply on what languages Norio displays. Imagine how robots in the future will further enhance tourism for everyone at historical sites.

Norio robot at a French Château

Norio robot at a French Château

Air Access, is a concept that will transform airline travel for persons with reduced mobility.  I have been following this prototype with high interest as my background lies with the travel industry, and I’d love to see this product in active installation on most major airlines within 10 years, if not sooner.

It is intended to ease the transition from passenger gate to the aircraft, and it means a PRM / PMR (person with reduced mobility / person avec mobilité réduite) will have a closer passenger experience to that which an able-bodied person may have.

It consists of 2 parts:  (1) a detachable wheelchair for transporting passengers on and off the aircraft, and (2) a fixed frame aisle-seat on the aircraft.  The passenger is wheeled onto the aircraft and when beside the fixed frame seat, the wheels pivot to enable the wheelchair portion to ‘lock on’ to the fixed frame seat without the passenger having to stand up.

Air Access model (image: PriestmanGoode)

Air Access model (image: PriestmanGoode)

This  innovation would cut down claims from EU Air Passenger Rights regarding damaged mobility equipment, and the safety of the passenger is also increased as they would not be handled by cabin crew to and from their seats. In-flight, in the event of using the bathroom they would only require assistance to ‘unlock’ the chair and they could then wheel to the bathroom.  The seat pad is also removable meaning passengers who require varying needs of support can alter this.

My thoughts around the challenges for airlines holding back on installation:  The product would need streamlining with each carriers cabin design, however Air Access seats could be installed on most rows, allowing for a group of PRM’s to travel together (e.g. a Paralympics team), and airlines would not see any decrease in revenue as the seats can be used by all passengers – abled-bodied or not.

Air Access concept (image: PriestmanGoode)

Air Access concept (image: PriestmanGoode)

iBot, a stair-climbing wheelchair uses similar balancing technology to a Segway. Stairs are everywhere and the vision of the iBot is to give wheelchair-bound people access to all terrains. Unfortunately, the price is prohibitive at this stage for many people but the future potential is huge.

iBot - self-balancing, stair-climbing robot

iBot – self-balancing, stair-climbing robot

Please share this post – I’d love to hear feedback about these innovations!  Comment below, or drop me a line on Twitter  or Facebook.

MR.CARDBOARD made in Germany inspired by Google Cardboard

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