With a Little Help From Technology

PST Rich Stimuli Data Collection Project

With a little help from technology, people can see better, run faster, and do things more efficiently. NYSCI is currently working on an exhibition that will explore the user-focused engineering process that’s used to design products that enhance people’s abilities, from sneakers to eyeglasses, to wheelchairs and prosthetics. The exhibition, called Human+ (“Human Plus”), is a collaboration with the Quality of Life Technology Center (QoLT) and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). The end user figures prominently in building assisted technology products, so engineers have to consider the user at every stage of design. It is this process of asking, imagining, creating and testing that the exhibition will investigate.

Human+ won’t open until 2013, but NYSCI staff are already hard at work identifying projects to test with visitors. Working with a group of advisors that includes academics, engineers, and people with disabilities, NYSCI staff are searching for stories and projects that will capture the attention of museum visitors. A “soft-touch” robotic arm, a wheelchair with a snowplow attached, and prosthetic legs designed for running are some of the projects under consideration.

The exhibition’s main messages will include:

  • Engineering is a creative process that can design technologies to meet human needs and improve people’s lives.
  • Everyone can design something that helps people use their abilities to achieve their goals.
  • Users should be central to the design process.
  • Whether it’s sneakers or eyeglasses, or wheelchairs or prosthetics, everyone uses technology to accomplish things.

Opening in fall 2013 at NYSCI, Human+ will include examples of assisted technology projects, narratives from people with disabilities about how they have modified or designed technology to help them reach their goals, and stations where visitors can design and build products of their own.