“Designers are problem solvers”, says James Roberts, a graduate of Loughborough University’s product design degree. Given an open brief for his final year project, Roberts was looking for a problem to solve. The 2013 Panorama documentary Saving Syria’s Children, which highlighted he plight of premature refugee babies dying from lack of access to incubators, provided the perfect engineering challenge: “I saw a problem and it was fun to solve it. It was an obvious need.”
Singapore’s old people have never had it so good: now, there’s a robot to help them keep fit and healthy. RoboCoach, their new best friend, offers both encouragement and exercise tips. Its message is unambiguous: get your exercise routines wrong – skipping them no longer seems optional – and you put extra strain on the country’s overstretched public finances. As Singapore’s minister for communication and information put it, RoboCoach “is able to ensure that old people perform the exercise routines correctly so as to get maximum benefit from their workouts”. Free advice to Singaporean authorities: why not couple RoboCoach 2.0 with a fancy wristband like Pavlok, sending an electric shock every time its users slack off and deviate from established objectives?