There’s an interesting perspective piece on the Wellcome Collection blog today about a robotic system called Rex that allows wheelchair-users to stand, walk and climb stairs. Rather than focusing on the technology and design behind the mobility-assist device, the post examines how scientific advances, such as the Rex, can mediate our relationship with the material world.
In the entry, Wellcome Trust graduate trainee Ed Thornton describes a demonstration of the Rex by paraplegic Sophia Morgan. He writes:
Watching the demonstration and talking with Sophie reminded me of just how positive and life-affirming this change of perspective can be. It is easy to think of technological developments as an alienating and inhuman force in our lives and to speculate that further innovation will make us feel more and more removed from the ‘real world’, but watching Sophie stand up from her chair I was reminded that machinery can also be emotionally charged. Like all scientific discovery, the development of human enhancements is part of a process that is inherently personal. Watching Sophie walk around the gallery I was witnessing both an example of scientific progress and an important experience in her life. Looking at herself standing in a full-length mirror, Sophie commented, “I had forgotten how tall I am.” Her perspective on the world and the image she had of herself had changed, for the better, as a result of this robotic device.