A Silicon Valley startup is gambling on the demographic time bomb that is set to explode in the Western world over the next several decades. The company hopes baby boomers will abandon their canes, wheelchairs, and walkers for futuristic robotic-powered “super suits” that works with the user’s muscles to help boost strength. Just imagine if grandma was turned into a cyborg with one of these contraptions...
The ‘super suit’ helps boost the power of the wearer’s muscles. (Source: Seismic/BBC)
The company called Seismic, an apparel and robotics company spin-off from SRI International, has debuted a new kind of technology that millennials hope could be the solution to defuse the demographic time bomb.
The wearable powered suits aim to improve the wearer’s core strength and turn baby boomers into productive beings once more. The suit’s ‘electric muscles,’ powered by miniature motors are embedded into the futuristic, Under Armour-like clothing around the joints of the body via grips in the suit that function like human tendons.
Motor-powered ‘muscles’ are attached to the clothing near the wearer’s joints. (Source: Seismic/BBC)
A computer and sensors monitor the user’s body movements are also integrated into the suit; complex software with machine learning characteristics decide when the smart clothing should provide extra energy to the user. The hardware in the suit is of low-profile hexagon-shaped pods for a sleek design.
“Right now the only kinds of products that can help people are walkers and canes,” Rich Mahoney, founder and CEO of Seismic told BBC. “The other option is to stay home or to limit your activity. And most people choose that because they don’t really want to associate themselves with those other kinds of products.”
For saleability purposes, Seismic partnered with designer Yves Béhar. “The goal is to make a product that you actually want to wear, not one that you have to wear,” Béhar told BBC. “Comfort is extremely important, as well as aesthetics.”
Seismic plans to debut the powered suit at the Future Starts Here, an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London later this year. The company plans to target demographically challenged markets including the US, Japan, and the UK.
Wearable smart apparel for baby boomers and the ‘senior market’ is set to explode in the next decade. The percentage of the global population that is 65 or older will double from 10 percent to 20 percent by 2050, according to Visual Capitalist.
The company is also exploring clothing lines to help those who have experienced strokes and children with muscular dystrophy. There are even plans that the product could be used for occupational safety and industrial applications, for example, auto manufacturing, construction activities, and warehousing.
“As a designer, my focus is in ensuring that this technology is used in a way that makes sense for us as humans – that it improves our daily lives,” said Béhar.
He believes that wearable smart technology is in its infancy. “Ten years from now, technology will only be more invisible,” he added.
So, Seismic is an example of Silicon Valley millennials racing against time with technology to defuse the demographic time bomb that is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations this country has ever seen. The goal, well, it is to turn the baby boomer generation into productive cyborgs and avoid a collapse. Something tells us the collision at play is irreversible.