It is brave to dream but it is so much braver to act
In high school and the university, where he studied engineering, Dr Jordan Nguyen was always interested in how robotics and AI could help improve lives.
“Technology is a tool to achieve our dreams,” says Nguyen, AI futurist, inventor, and internationally recognised ‘engineer for humanity’.
For his PhD in biomedical engineering, Nguyen developed a wheelchair that can be controlled by the mind, inspired by the experiences of a friend who was disabled.
“The world is moving faster,” he states, so he worked further to see how technology can lift sectors, “especially those that are left behind”.
This is the focus of Psykinetic, a startup social business he set up that aims to create futuristic, inclusive, and empowering technologies to improve independence and quality of life for people with disabilities.
Speaking at the recent AWS Innovation Day in Sydney, Nguyen says one of their projects involved Riley, a 13-year-old boy with cerebral palsy.
The boy loves technology and used to stare at a light to turn it on. He also stared at the TV to change the channel.
That was the idea that also got him started to work on a project that will let the boy drive a car using his eyes.
Jordan explains that when we move our eyes, our brain sends signals to move our muscles. He then developed a headband to pick up these signals and send these to a computer.
The computer is going to control the motor vehicle.
In a video he showed at the conference, Nguyen was a passenger in the car which Riley drove using his eyes. The camera panned to capture the latter’s excitement.
“Look at the determination in his eyes,” says Nguyen.
He shares some other ways his team at Psykinetic is utilising cloud to reach more people with technology.
One of these is StarGaze, an online marketplace, which can be navigated using an eye-tracking device.
He discloses that they taught a three-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. “She may not move and speak, but her mum knows she is cognitive.”
“We showed her how to play the game, where the reset button was, and she jumped every time the game crashed,” adds Nguyen.
“She showed problem solving [skills], and just kept going.”
“Once you start projects, you start figuring out more use cases,” he says on working with technologies to improve independence and quality of life for people with disabilities.
He tells the audience of ICT professionals, “We all have an ability to make a difference in the world.
“In technology, sometimes you have no idea where you’re going...you start to realise the impact over time.”
“If you make it human, you can use that inspiration to keep going forward. It is brave to dream but it is so much braver to act.”
He goes on to say, “When you set the bar, set it higher and be more ambitious.”
“Think different, think big. We are only limited by our own imagination."
The author attended AWS Innovation Day in Sydney as a guest of AWS
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