Monday, March 03, 2008

Suiting up to understand elderly needs

Sometimes, there’s no better way to try to find a solution to a person's problem than being in that person’s shoes.

That, of course, is precisely what Nissan is doing in its bid to create cars that are ‘friendly’ to senior citizens.

Engineers at Nissan have created a special ‘suit’ that simulates the physical aspect of aging. It helps the engineers and designers to see through the eyes of older customers and formulate ways to address special needs.
The suit has a number of ‘aged’ attributes that a typical old person possesses. Cataract goggles that simulate poor eyesight, casts on the body to simulate arthritic pain by making it more difficult to raise arms and legs, and colour deficiency goggles to simulate problems distinguishing colours are part of the suit's inventory.

One feature of the suit is a thick waist-belt. About 250mm wide and 50mm thick, it does an excellent job of duplicating what is euphemistically known as the 'middle aged spread'. The belt makes it harder to enter or exit a car and can even cramp an engineer's movement behind the steering wheel in a poorly designed seating position.

Naturally, the research suits also give an insight into problems faced by partially disabled drivers of any age, and as a whole forms a vital part of research being done to the changing needs of drivers.

The suits are being used by engineers at the Nissan Technology Center (NTC), outside Tokyo. Work at the centre accelerates research and advances the engineering of breakthrough technologies for Nissan's next generation of products.

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