Fuseproject studio's newest debuts tackle a challenging question: how can designers help aging consumers reap the benefits of the newest technologies in a way that feels intuitive, friendly and unobtrusive? With the announcement of two of their newest projects—ElliQ and Superflex—Yve Behar's team continues their recent fascination with robotic technologies through products that could significantly help those dealing with a number of issues related to aging.
After conducting research concerning aging populations, Fuseproject discovered that almost 43% of older adults report feeling lonely. The studio in turn aimed to create a product that can alleviate this feeling and partnered with Intuition Robotics to create ElliQ: a new kind of robotic personal assistant.
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ElliQ not only can remind you to take your medications and connect you to loved ones via video conferencing, it also learns your preferences and gives you suggestions on things to listen to or watch. The robot was designed not to resemble conventional notions of robots (scary facial expression, bionic pincher arms, etc.), but instead a type of emotive body language similar to humans through different movements, sounds, lights and images. Founder of Intuition Robotics Dor Skuler notes their goal was to create an "elegant design to empower older adults to intuitively interact with technology and easily connect with content and loved ones, and pursue an active lifestyle. We like to think of her as part communication coordinator, part facilitator of lifelong learning and part coach."
For their next project, Fuseproject partnered with Superflex, a startup working in the realm they coined as 'powered clothing'. Being exhibited at the 'New Old' Exhibition this month at the London Design Museum, Superflex tackles how this wearable technology can benefit aging individuals in the here and now. This technology utilizes different motors and types of artificial intelligence within a body suit resting at key mobility points (the torso, hips and legs). Reacting to the wearer's own movements, the body suits adds muscular power assistance in order to help those with mobility problems move more freely—therefore making it easier to walk, get in and out of a seating position, climb stairs, etc.
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Behar also makes an interesting point about how with Superflex, Fuseproject made a deliberate effort to challenge the "sickroom aesthetic" many medical products for older people possess: "instead of the design and aesthetic framework of products for the aging market that is stigmatizing and reinforces increased marginalization, the materials and design details of the Superflex design are about comfort, performance and style." Still in development mode, Superflex and Fuseproject are working together to create working models for consumers that will be comfortable, minimal (so it can stealthily be worn under clothing) and easily washed.
Each of these ideas offer loads of exciting new opportunities for aging individuals as well as designers in the upcoming robotic age—with new progressive and intuitive technologies, older consumers can be offered quicker solutions to both physical and mental ails while designers have the opportunity to better individual lives at a massive scale.