An article posted to the New York Times on January 20th features thoughts from AgeLab director Joe Coughlin about the design principles guiding new technologies for older adults. The article examines new tools like Alexa, telepresence robots, and virtual reality, and the ways that they might improve the lives of the elderly not only by mitigating limitatons related to health and mobility, but "as a mechanism to enhance life," as Dennis Lally, co-founder of Cambridge-based VR company Rendever, says in the article.
Dr Coughlin talks about the need to design and market new consumer technologies aspirationally, rather than as a reaction to peoples' ills:
"Some simple tools that can help older adults are already mass-market consumer items, like Amazon’s personal assistant, Alexa. Other inventions, such as virtual reality technologies and robotic limbs, are still in their early days but could soon provide more freedom, resources and constant care to retirees.
Some technologists see the most promise in the social dimensions. For too long, technology has been chasing problems rather than trying to delight human beings, said Joseph Coughlin, director of the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Where are the devices that help us learn and expand our horizons?” he said.
Virtual reality, for example, can entertain, educate and engage us, he said. “It’s for young and old alike,” Mr. Coughlin said. “And it’s enjoyed, not needed. That’s the high ground.” These devices will especially help augment the adult child’s caregiver role, he added."
Read the full story here.