Body suit simulators are nothing new. Earlier this year the Kanagawa Institute of Technology in Japan, designed to help the partners of expecting moms--as well as teenagers thinking about getting it on--to understand the physical ramifications of, well, getting it on.
Now students at MIT's AgeLab are taking this empathy concept to another level with AGNES, the Age Gain Now Empathy System, a suit designed to help wearers understand the physical ramifications of neglecting our bodies for decades on end. (AGNES is meant to emulate a 75-year-old with arthritis and diabetes.)
The suit incorporates shoes that compromise one's sense of balance and shorten one's gait; knee and elbow braces that limit joint mobility; earplugs that tune out soft or high-pitched sounds; a helmet that compresses the spine; and gloves that reduce not only strength and mobility in one's hands and wrists but also tactile sensation.
Sounds like a party. But the folks at MIT haven't designed AGNES for the retail market. (It's hard to imagine many people willingly paying money to feel like this.) Really, it's a research aid. AGNES has been used by AgeLab students to better understand how it feels to be physically limited, as well as by product developers, designers, marketers, and engineers of cars, public transit, clothes, and more.
The Baby Boomers have begun, after all, turning the age the Beatles so famously memorialized in their song, "When I'm 64." More and more the world will be designed, at least to some extent, around their aches and pains.