In this post I’m going to mention a few tall relevant things that came across my mind at OCE Discovery 2016, Ontario’s premier technology showcase. I’ve attended the conference for a couple years now as my mass customization research is funded by the Ontario Centers of Excellence. While the conference isn’t exactly CES, there is nevertheless some truly extraordinary stuff.
To get things started off, Spencer West gave a motivational speech. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s the guy with no legs who climbed Mount Kilamangero, Africa’s tallest mountain. His most apt motto is, ‘redefine possible’. When standing on his arms, which he walks with, he is 2′7″ tall. Interestingly, the title of his best-selling book is Standing Tall: My Journey. To see the word ‘tall’ used as such a positive metaphor, it gives me more appreciation of what it is to be tall. And as far as the challenges, these seem minuscule compared to what Spencer West overcame.
The theme of the conference for the last couple years has been disruptive technologies. Last year this was covered by David Roberts of Singularity University and a couple managers from Uber and AirBNB. This year there was a discussion panel on driverless cars and the main keynote speaker was JB Straubel, Tesla’s CTO and co-founder. It was no surprise then to find a Tesla S70D on the showroom floor. I sat in it and I can tell you that, while it has decent legroom, the head room is not so good. This will probably be the case for most electric vehicles given the emphasis on efficiency and thereby low weight and aerodynamics. Evidently, we tall people are going to have to wait a while before we can begin to curb our own emissions. Though, perhaps another disruptive technology could speed this up…
There were a lot of companies working on various forms of 3D printing present. 3D printing has the potential to make the world a whole lot more tall friendly. This will include the clothes and shoes we wear, but also the cars we drive (Urbee may be the first 3D printed car), and even medical devices.
And speeking of medical devices, I happened to sit next to someone who is designing catheters for heart procedures. I asked him what was the tallest person they were designed to work for. He didn’t know, but admitted they probably wouldn’t work for Yao Ming. I’ve got his card and will be following up on this discussion.
Other than that, there was a lot of other fantastic stuff there, like the ARAIG gaming suit (claimed to have a size suitable for tall people). More generally, there were drones, water purification systems, various social innovations, and so on. Perhaps the most fun part for me though was riding a helicopter simulator built in an actual Bell 206 cockpit. What a blast it would be to have one of those at home. Of course I would need to raise the roof, as just like cars, helicopters are built for near average body size. But as I say, perhaps this is going to change!