Bodysuits are typically used to augment our natural abilities. So why would anyone opt for a suit that simulates the aches and pains of your average 70-year-old? Engineers at MIT have developed just such a specially outfitted suit in an attempt to help the young empathize with the discomforts routinely suffered by the elderly. Here, a brief guide:
What did they build?
The suit is called the Age Gain Now Empathy System, or AGNES for short. It gives young people the chance to experience firsthand the debilitating effects of aging. "Put on this suit and you feel increased fatigue, reduced flexibility in joints and muscles, spinal compression and difficulty with vision and balance," AGNES' creators explain in a demonstration video. (Watch it below.)
How does it work?
AGNES uses a complex array of "arm, leg, and neck braces, as well as a web of stretchy cords to make moving around cumbersome and uncomfortable," says John Roach at MSNBC. To mimic the feeling of a compressed spine, a safety helmet is strapped to the wearer's body; meanwhile, goggles and earplugs are used to compromise a person's eyesight and hearing. In the video, young people strapped into AGNES have a hard time completing a range of mundane tasks, from bending to access low supermarket shelves to using public transportation.
Why would anyone wear such a thing?
Now that "the population stays active longer, it's important for all kinds of industrial designers, engineers, architects, and others" to understand how the elderly go about their daily lives, says Dan Nosowitz at Popular Science. In the end, AGNES will help make our twilight years more comfortable by allowing researchers to experience the nuances of old age firsthand.