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← Simple hacks for life with Parkinson's

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Showing Revision 7 created 03/10/2016 by Brian Greene.

  1. In India, we have these huge families.
  2. I bet a lot of you all
    must have heard about it.
  3. Which means that there are
    a lot of family events.
  4. So as a child, my parents
    used to drag me to these family events.
  5. But the one thing
    that I always looked forward to

  6. was playing around with my cousins.
  7. And there was always this one uncle
  8. who used to be there,
  9. always ready, jumping around with us,
  10. having games for us,
  11. making us kids have the time of our lives.
  12. This man was extremely successful:
  13. he was confident and powerful.
  14. But then I saw this hale and hearty person
    deteriorate in health.
  15. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's.
  16. Parkinson's is a disease that causes
    degeneration of the nervous system,

  17. which means that this person
    who used to be independent
  18. suddenly finds tasks like drinking coffee,
    because of tremors, much more difficult.
  19. My uncle started using a walker to walk,
  20. and to take a turn,
  21. he literally had to take
    one step at a time, like this,
  22. and it took forever.
  23. So this person, who used to be
    the center of attention
  24. in every family gathering,
  25. was suddenly hiding behind people.
  26. He was hiding from the pitiful look
    in people's eyes.
  27. And he's not the only one in the world.

  28. Every year, 60,000 people
    are newly diagnosed with Parkinson's,
  29. and this number is only rising.
  30. As designers, we dream that our designs
    solve these multifaceted problems,
  31. one solution that solves it all,
  32. but it need not always be like that.
  33. You can also target simple problems
  34. and create small solutions for them
    and eventually make a big impact.
  35. So my aim here was
    to not cure Parkinson's,
  36. but to make their everyday tasks
    much more simple,
  37. and then make an impact.
  38. Well, the first thing I targeted
    was tremors, right?

  39. My uncle told me that he had stopped
    drinking coffee or tea in public
  40. just out of embarrassment,
  41. so, well, I designed the no-spill cup.
  42. It works just purely on its form.
  43. The curve on top deflects the liquid
    back inside every time they have tremors,
  44. and this keeps the liquid inside
    compared to a normal cup.
  45. But the key here is that it is not tagged
    as a Parkinson's patient product.
  46. It looks like a cup that could be used
    by you, me, any clumsy person,
  47. and that makes it much more comforting
    for them to use, to blend in.
  48. So, well, one problem solved,
  49. many more to go.
  50. All this while, I was interviewing him,

  51. questioning him,
  52. and then I realized that I was getting
    very superficial information,
  53. or just answers to my questions.
  54. But I really needed to dig deeper
    to get a new perspective.
  55. So I thought, well,
    let's observe him in his daily tasks,
  56. while he's eating, while he's watching TV.
  57. And then, when I was actually
    observing him walking to his dining table,
  58. it struck me, this man who finds it
    so difficult to walk on flat land,
  59. how does he climb a staircase?
  60. Because in India we do not have
    a fancy rail that takes you up a staircase
  61. like in the developed countries.
  62. One actually has to climb the stairs.
  63. So he told me,
  64. "Well, let me show you how I do it."
  65. Let's take a look at what I saw.
  66. So he took really long
    to reach this position,

  67. and then all this while, I'm thinking,
  68. "Oh my God, is he really going to do it?
  69. Is he really, really going to do it
    without his walker?"
  70. And then ...
  71. (Laughter)

  72. And the turns, he took them so easily.

  73. So -- shocked?

  74. Well, I was too.
  75. So this person who could not
    walk on flat land
  76. was suddenly a pro at climbing stairs.
  77. On researching this, I realized that
    it's because it's a continuous motion.

  78. There's this other man
    who also suffers from the same symptoms
  79. and uses a walker,
  80. but the moment he's put on a cycle,
  81. all his symptoms vanish,
  82. because it is a continuous motion.
  83. So the key for me was to translate
    this feeling of walking on a staircase
  84. back to flat land.
  85. And a lot of ideas
    were tested and tried on him,
  86. but the one that finally worked
    was this one. Let's take a look.
  87. (Laughter)

  88. (Applause)

  89. He walked faster, right?

  90. (Applause)

  91. I call this the staircase illusion,

  92. and actually when the staircase illusion
    abruptly ended, he froze,
  93. and this is called freezing of gait.
  94. So it happens a lot,
  95. so why not have a staircase illusion
    flowing through all their rooms,
  96. making them feel much more confident?
  97. You know, technology is not always it.
  98. What we need are human-centered solutions.
  99. I could have easily
    made it into a projection,
  100. or a Google Glass, or something like that.
  101. But I stuck to simple print on the floor.
  102. This print could be taken into hospitals
  103. to make them feel much more welcome.
  104. What I wish to do
    is make every Parkinson's patient

  105. feel like my uncle felt that day.
  106. He told me that I made him feel
    like his old self again.
  107. "Smart" in today's world
    has become synonymous to high tech,

  108. and the world is only getting
    smarter and smarter day by day.
  109. But why can't smart be something
    that's simple and yet effective?
  110. All we need is a little bit of empathy
    and some curiosity,
  111. to go out there, observe.
  112. But let's not stop at that.
  113. Let's find these complex problems.
    Don't be scared of them.
  114. Break them, boil them down
    into much smaller problems,
  115. and then find simple solutions for them.
  116. Test these solutions, fail if needed,
  117. but with newer insights to make it better.
  118. Imagine what we all could do
    if we all came up with simple solutions.
  119. What would the world be like
    if we combined all our simple solutions?
  120. Let's make a smarter world,
    but with simplicity.
  121. Thank you.

  122. (Applause)