The Consumer Electronics Show is not traditionally synonymous with health and vitality so much as technological advances. However, this year’s exposition was a little bit different. Genworth debuted their R70i Aging Suit. This suit, which acts as a powered exoskeleton, is designed to make the person wearing the suit feel as if they’ve aged anywhere from 10 to 40 years. Once it is on, any number of programming routines can simulate everything from glaucoma to aphasia. With a headset that one wears over the eyes and ears, which can change your vision and can alter the sound coming in. The suit has rotors so that you can experience everything from rheumatoid arthritis to what it feels like to walk after having a hip replacement.
Bran Farren, the creator, says about the exoskeleton, “Instead of eyes, you have high-definition TV cameras. They send signals to the computer in the backpack. That computer processes any of the vision defects or abnormalities” (such as macular degeneration or cataracts), “Which then comes back up to a series of HD monitors which you look at. Same thing with hearing, there are sound-cancelling headphones which have additional microphones so we can listen to the sounds in the environment, run it through a digital signal processor, and then back again so we can emulate the effects of various types of hearing deficiencies and loss. The exoskeleton is designed to apply load to your joints. When the lights on the joints are blue there is no load. As the lights become redder, as they apply more load to simulate the effect of lack of muscle strength and lack of movement in joints. There is no pain, there is only limiting of range of motion and the amount of force required to move.”
Genworth was specific to remind users that the suit isn’t meant to “scare” anyone. The goal with the suit not to focus on the negatives of ageing, it is to raise awareness for the age related conditions it can replicate. It can educate and help make people aware of the warning signs and symptoms early, to help with treatment. People are living longer lives, but Genworth is aware that people are often not prepared to live that longer life. The aging experience is meant to stimulate that conversation early, to encourage healthy living and ageing.
The video below shows the suit in action, and is part of Loren Grush’s recap of the suit on The Verge.