When Innovation Changes the Meaning of Disability


Last winter, when I had a ski accident and broke my knee ligaments, my 6-year-old son said to me, “Don’t worry, they’ll fix it and you’ll become a robot”. What impressed me in that sentence was that, in his mind, the meaning of breaking things or disability was already changed: in some years, we will have to find a new term in the post-disability age.
Maxènce is french boy, born without a hand and that has been equipped with the first 3d printed hand in the world. The innovative thing is that the hand for “Super Max” is not a medical support that requires surgery, but a wearable device printed by e-NABLE (To Give The World A “Helping Hand!) association, created by volunteers passionate about 3d printing and able to provide innovative solutions at a low price. On his first day of school, he was “the hero”, the one that other kids admired, because of his new hand: the concept of disability suddenly took on a refreshed, new meaning.
The Chairless Chair is an exoskeleton that allows workers to sit without straining their muscles.The change is already here, when such solutions are created not only to help people with disability, but also to help “normal” people during their work in difficult situations. The Swiss startup Noone has created an exoskeleton that acts as a chair and helps Audi’s employees during their working day, where they have to stand in difficult and uncomfortable positions. This chairless chair literally hugs the employee’s legs and sustains him/her whenever the standing position becomes difficult. The possible audience for such wearables is large and its impact on productivity, compared to the fatigue of difficult positions, makes the ROI impact very interesting.

Hugh Herr is a bionic designer and also a mountain climber, whot lost both his legs in an accident. In his TED talks video, he said that “We the people need not accept our limitation, but can transcend disability through technological innovation” .

Hugh Herr Hugh Herr

There is a large potential in this sector and recent studies show that the exoskeleton market share will reach $2.1 billion by 2021 and we will have an exoskeleton market besides the therapeutic robotic market. People that could not walk or had a major disability, today have the hope that moving about will be much more easier to achieve and I believe that this is just the beginning.

What makes me dream about all these innovations is that the only limit is the sky and we can go beyond ourselves. The last example that I would like to cite is less linked to robots but still interesting. It is about what Dr. Tarek Loubani made in order to help Palestinian patients. This Canadian doctor saw that stethoscopes were missing in Gaza because of the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel and he “just” found the solution. The cost of his 3d printed stethoscopes is $2.5 and it is just as good as costlier models, doctors say.
Innovation is already here but, the most funny thing is that we are the innovation. 


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